Justice Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by President Donald Trump to the Supreme Court, is a darling of the American religious right, who values her conservative legal arguments as much as the way this practicing Catholic lives her life.
The 48-year-old former law professor, who has only been a judge since 2017, played both attributes on Monday as she faced the first day of her Senate confirmation hearings, with six of her seven children in the audience , as well as her husband and other family members.
“Nothing is more important to me and I am very proud to have them behind me,” she said in a prepared address to the Senate committee, devoting a brief portion of her speech to each of her children, including two were adopted from Haiti and one of whom has Down syndrome.
Speaking about the different stages of her career, Barrett said she had “worked hard as a lawyer and a teacher … but I never let the law define my identity or oust the rest of my life.” ”
“A similar principle applies to the role of the courts,” she said, stressing that “courts are not designed to solve all problems or right all wrongs in our public life.”
She said that “a judge must apply the law as it is written, and not as he wishes.”
As a recent graduate, Barrett took this “textualist” or “originalist” approach to interpreting the Constitution when she hired the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a deeply conservative pillar of the judiciary whose death ahead of the 2016 election sparked a bitter row over his successor, with Republicans refusing to consider then-President Barack Obama’s candidate.
The originalist theory is highly regarded in conservative circles, where the Supreme Court has been criticized for straying too far from the meaning of the founding fathers in the late 18th century, by allowing same-sex marriage and abortion.
– “Dogma lives loudly in you” –
After her stint on the Supreme Court, Barrett returned to her alma mater, the respected University of Notre Dame in Indiana, to teach law for 15 years.
It wasn’t until 2017 that she was appointed by Trump to a federal appeals court.
Her Senate confirmation process has been a stormy affair, with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein telling her: “Dogma lives loudly in you.”
This statement was used by supporters of Barrett to accuse Feinstein of intolerance and only served to strengthen the judge’s position among the religious right.
The conservative Judicial Crisis Network went so far as to have mugs made with Barrett’s image printed on them alongside Feinstein’s words.
Without losing her temper, Barrett replied that she could distinguish between her faith and her duties as a judge.
Learning from that experience, Senate Democrats tried to avoid criticism of his religious views on Monday.
Barrett, on the other hand, made no attempt to disguise his faith. “I believe in the power of prayer,” she said, thanking everyone who prayed for her appointment to the highest court in the land.
– ‘Kingdom of God’ –
Outside the political arena, her critics accuse her of being an ideologue.
They cite the comments she made to the students of Notre Dame, in which she said that a “legal career is only a means to an end … and that that end is the building of the Kingdom of God ”as well as his anti-abortion stance and membership in a charismatic Catholic group called“ People of Praise ”.
Critics also claim Barrett has taken positions pro gun rights and against immigrants, women seeking abortions and against the health care law known as Obamacare, which Republicans are trying to dismantle.
“This appointment aims to take health care away from 20 million Americans and eliminate protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Barrett, who even opposed guaranteeing access to contraception, would be a scourge for reproductive freedom, ”said Daniel Goldberg, director of the Progressive Legal Program. lobbying group Alliance for Justice.
At the same time, the Conservatives salute a woman they consider “brilliant” and “impressive”.
“I bet there are a lot of young women, like my two daughters, who marvel at the balance you’ve achieved,” Texas Republican John Cornyn said at Monday’s hearing, while the Judge’s fans have even gotten into the habit of portraying her as Superman on the Internet.
© 2020 AFP