The historical sexual abuse allegations and the emotional trauma allegations do not specifically concern Barrett, who has always been a member of the Charismatic Group, or his family.
But some former members who spoke to the Guardian said they were deeply concerned that too little was understood about the ‘community’ of worship people before Barrett’s expected Senate confirmation next week. , after which she will take the seat previously held by the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Two people familiar with the matter say more than two dozen former church group members, many of whom say they feel “triggered” by Barrett’s appointment, are participating in a support group to discuss how the church group has gone. affected their lives.
“The basic premise of everything at People of Praise was that the devil was in control of everything outside the community and that you would withdraw from protection ‘if you ever leave,’ said a former member who called herself Esther. who must have joined the group as a child, but then left the organization. “I was okay with it being in a tiny corner of Indiana, because a lot of weird things are happening in tiny corners of this country. But it’s just unfathomable to me – I can’t even explain how unfathomable it is – that you have a Supreme Court judge who is a card-carrying member of this community.
Barrett was not asked about her involvement with People of Praise during her confirmation hearings last week, and never included her involvement with the group in Senate disclosure forms, but has in the past pointed out that his religious faith as a pious Catholic would not interfere with his impartiality.
People of Praise is rooted in the rise of charismatic Christian communities in the late 1960s and 1970s, which blended Pentecostal traditions like speaking in tongues and prophecy with Catholicism. It is an ecumenical group – that is, it accepts members from different Christian churches – although its members are mostly Catholic. Proponents say that charismatic Christians are linked to one another through the shared personal presence of Christ by members and “empowerment by the Holy Spirit.”
Its manual emphasizes an island view of the world, emphasizing obedience and dedication to fellow members, and community life.
Barrett’s father was a leader in the community. Barrett was also listed as a “maid” in a 2010 yearbook, or leader, was a school administrator associated with the group and was featured in People of Praise magazines which were removed from the group’s website after her appointment. as a judge of the court of appeal in 2017.
The Guardian confirmed that Barrett lived with a family led by one of the founders of the People of Praise, Kevin Ranaghan, while she was a law student at Notre Dame, and lived with another People of Praise family – Barbette and William Brophy – in Virginia after graduation.
Supporters of the faith community have said in other news reports that they are misunderstood and that this is a tight-knit community that seeks to support other members “financially, materially and spiritually.”
But the former members paint a different picture. The allegations and concerns relate to allegations of intense submission of women by community leaders; control of the lives and decisions of members, including marriage, living conditions and the education of children; and in one case, the mismanagement of allegations of sexual abuse. Members who admit to having same-sex relationships are kicked out of the group, which strongly opposes same-sex marriage.
For Sarah (Mitchell) Kuehl, a 48-year-old former member who grew up in the community, talks about Barrett’s possible appointment prompted her – after years of trying to figure out how to fix it – to email 23 September to Craig Lent, the current head of People of Praise, who also works as a teacher at Notre Dame. In it, Kuehl claimed that she had been sexually abused decades earlier by a ‘family member’, a male member of ‘the community’ who had lived with the Mitchell family as part of community living practices. of the group. Singles were to be single and live in family households that were supposed to provide an example of married life, according to former members.
After his alleged assailant – who along with his family was technically a member of a precursor group called Servants of the Light / Lord which merged in 1984 with People of Praise – admitted to his father that he assaulted Kuehl, he admitted moved to another and eventually had an “arranged” marriage for him, she said. She was four years old when the violence started and it lasted for two years. At the time, his family was also living with other single men and women.
“I fought for years over whether I should hold PoP accountable for what they knew, when they knew it, and their attempt to hide and hide. Like the Catholic Church, which covered up and displaced priests, PoP has had a history of these same behaviors, ”Kuehl said in his Lenten email.
Letters provided to the Guardian by Kuehl from the late 1980s and early 1990s corroborate allegations of abuse and her parents’ attempts to resolve the issue with senior People of Praise executives. The documents include references to a psychological assessment of the alleged abuser and confirmation that he abused Kuehl. The documents also revealed that there were additional casualties and that other minors were in danger.
Years later, when Kuehl sought to discuss the matter with her “maid” – a guide and senior member of the organization, when she was in college – she said she was discouraged. talk.
“She told me NOT to discuss this with anyone because it might ‘damage the reputation of the community,’” Kuehl wrote in her Lenten letter.
Weeks later, on October 5, Lent responded to Kuehl’s email. He wrote: “I am just contacting you to let you know that we take this matter very seriously.”
He added: “We really want to look at this. To that end, we contracted with Diane Doolittle from Quinn Emanuel, who specializes in exactly this type of investigation. (It took a while to sort out.) I want to stress that although she is a lawyer, her role is not to defend PoP, but rather the role of an independent investigator. We thought that better than trying to directly investigate ourselves. We want to know the truth on the matter. She will also talk to other people.
Doolittle’s online biography indicates that she is a Silicon Valley-based trial lawyer who is involved in “complex high-stakes commercial, intellectual property and white-collar matters.” She is also listed as having been engaged in “sensitive #MeToo affairs, including conducting internal company investigations”.
But the People of Praise choice is also notable because of Quinn Emanuel’s ties to the White House. William Burck, who serves as a co-managing partner of Quinn Emanuel in Washington DC, counted Steve Bannon as a client, among others, and was a friend and associate of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation hearings, it was Burck – a “Washington super-lawyer” – who was accused of shooting Kavanaugh’s documents for review ahead of the Senate hearing.
There is no evidence that Burck was personally involved in the People of Praise investigation.
In a statement, People of Praise spokesperson Sean Connolly said, “We believe that one of our highest goals is the bond of trust around the safety of our community, and we take it very seriously. allegations of abuse or misconduct. In this case, we understand that the survivor abuse took place in the mid-1970s when the family of the survivor and the abuser were members of a different religious community called the Servants of the Light / Lord in the Minneapolis area. . People of worship did not exist in Minnesota until October 1983. ”
He added: “We understand that this is a deeply painful issue for the survivor and her family and we address our prayers to them”
Connolly also said People of Praise had adopted a child safety policy that included law enforcement reporting obligations of suspected child abuse. He did not respond to questions from the Guardian about his decision to hire Quinn Emanuel or whether the group was aware of his portrayal of Trump administration officials.
Kuehl told The Guardian that she looks forward to not being seen as seeking revenge on people of praise, or questioning Barrett’s character, intelligence or legal spirit. As a devout Catholic who attends Mass regularly and is a mother of five, she is also not anti-religious, but rather feels a “deep concern about the culture of secrecy, the abuse of power and the dominant hierarchy.” masculine ”at People of Praise.
Esther, who approached The Guardian but did not want to be identified, described how her parents became members of People of Praise after a family tragedy turned their lives upside down. The next eight years of her life, she said, were filled with “emotional turmoil” as she watched her parents “obediently embrace one conspiracy after another.”
“Anyone who was not charismatic was not trustworthy and was probably an operator for the ‘evil one. The devil was always trying to deceive us and the only way to stay safe was to obediently follow the rules set by “the coordinators,” “she said. “I was not allowed to watch TV for two years until it was no longer a directive; my mom could only cook with natural foods until it was no longer a fad… I was prohibited from owning a record / cassette unless it was Christian rock.
She added: “We were also pious Catholics, but there were strong innuendos that the diocese had gone astray and could not be trusted.
People of Praise has not commented on allegations of emotional abuse and trauma suffered by other former members.