House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., cautioned her fellow Democrats in the other chamber of Congress against bringing up Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholicism during the judge’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Senate.
Pelosi, who is a Catholic herself, argued that a person’s religious beliefs should not matter to the senators questioning the potential Supreme Court justice, but instead they should focus on Barrett’s views on the Constitution.
"I think it’s appropriate for people to ask her about how faithful she would be to the Constitution of the United States, whatever her faith,” Pelosi said Sunday during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It doesn’t matter what her faith is or what religion she believes in. What matters is, does she believe in the Constitution of the United States?"
Pelosi added: "Does she believe in the precedent on the Supreme Court that has upheld the Affordable Care Act? This is, again, directly related to a major concern of the American people, as it was in 2018. Health care, health care, health care. The three most important issues in this election.”
Barrett’s faith was already the subject of questions during her confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested that the judge’s religious tenets could guide her thinking on the law.
“The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said.
Barrett responded that her views had evolved and that she agreed judges shouldn’t “follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires.”
When Barrett’s name first arose in 2018 as a possible Supreme Court pick by President Trump, even some conservatives worried her sparse judicial record made it too hard to predict how she might rule. Nearly three years on, her judicial record now includes the authorship of around 100 opinions and several telling dissents in which Barrett displayed her clear and consistent conservative bent.
She has long expressed sympathy with a mode of interpreting the Constitution, called originalism, in which justices try to decipher original meanings of texts in assessing if someone’s rights have been violated. Many liberals oppose that strict approach, saying it is too rigid and doesn't allow the Constitution to change with the times.
Barrett’s fondness for original texts was on display in a 2019 dissent in a gun-rights case in which she argued a person convicted of a nonviolent felony shouldn’t be automatically barred from owning a gun. All but a few pages of her 37-page dissent were devoted to the history of gun rules for convicted criminals in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the 2017 White House questionnaire, Barrett was asked if it was her view that abortion was always immoral. She didn’t answer the question directly but said: “If I am confirmed (to the 7th Circuit), my views on this or any other question will have no bearing on the discharge of my duties as a judge.”
In a 2013 Texas Law Review article, Barrett listed fewer than 10 cases she said are widely considered “super-precedents,” ones that no justice would dare reverse even if they believed they were wrongly decided. Among them was Brown vs. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional.
One she didn’t include on the list: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that affirmed a woman’s right to abortion. Scholars don’t include it, she wrote, because public controversy swirling around it has never abated.
Abortion and women's rights were the focus of a bruising 2017 confirmation process after Barrett's nomination to the 7th Circuit.
Others pointed to Barrett's membership of the University of Notre Dame’s “Faculty for Life” group – and that she had signed a 2015 letter to Catholic bishops affirming the “value of human life from conception to natural death.”
The Senate eventually confirmed her in a 55-43 vote, with three Democrats joined the majority.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.