“Trump’s likely RBG replacement, Amy Coney Barrett, is a Catholic extremist with 7 children who does not believe employers should be required to provide healthcare coverage for birth control. She wants the rest of American women to be stuck with her extreme lifestyle.”
That’s a now-deleted tweet from a documentary filmmaker named Arlen Parsa, which earned some backlash for what I can only assume is its rank and vicious anti-Catholic bigotry. After all, imagine replacing “Catholic” with “Muslim” or “Orthodox Jewish,” for example, and it isn’t hard to see why this so offended.
And if it’s any forewarning of what’s to come if Barrett is indeed President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, we’re undoubtedly in for more of this — a fact that should trouble anyone who is hoping Trump loses in November.
Barrett’s association with a charismatic Catholic sect called People of Praise has become the left’s go-to attack line on the conservative judge. It’s what led Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Dick Durbin to question her objectivity in 2017 during her confirmation to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Feinstein said she was concerned that “the dogma lives loudly” within Barrett, while Durbin asked whether she was an “orthodox Catholic.” Both were another way of asking, “Just how Catholic are you, ma’am?” a question that sounds just as anachronistic as it is in 2020.
Of course, Barrett is not the first public official to be Catholic-shamed. While running for president, John F. Kennedy famously faced this kind of bias, and addressed it by assuring, “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic.”
Later, at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, the late Gov. Bob Casey, a Roman-Catholic Democrat, was muzzled for his pro-life views. Buttons depicting him as the Pope were sold at the convention, which he’d later describe as “simply a case of anti-Catholic bigotry.”
Now, the attacks on Barrett are just as, if not more blunt. Critics point to her affiliation with the People of Praise as proof of her backwardness, comparing the sect to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Sandi Bachom, whose Twitter bio reads “Independent Frontline Journalist” and contributor to Getty and NowThis, tweeted, “Amy Coney Barrett belongs to a radical, extreme, Christofascist cult where the women are called handmaids and the men make all the decisions. Margaret Atwood says it was inspiration for the Handmaid’s Tale.”
Film executive Franklin Leonard similarly posted, “@MargaretAtwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was LITERALLY inspired by People of Praise, of which Amy Coney Barrett is a member.”
Reuters also hopped on the bandwagon, tweeting, “Handmaid’s Tale? U.S. Supreme Court candidate’s religious community under scrutiny.”
Except it isn’t true. Atwood has never made such a claim. She has never said which group, if any, inspired her novel, and in fact, a profile of the author in 2017 pointed to a different, unrelated Catholic group in New Jersey.
A Newsweek article with the headline “How Charismatic Catholic Groups Like Amy Coney Barrett’s People of Praise Inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’” had to run the following correction, calling into question whether the story should have run at all:
“Correction: This article’s headline originally stated that People of Praise inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. The book’s author, Margaret Atwood, has never specifically mentioned the group as being the inspiration for her work. A New Yorker profile of the author from 2017 mentions a newspaper clipping as part of her research for the book of a different charismatic Catholic group, People of Hope. Newsweek regrets the error.”
These lazy smears against Barrett are not only unnecessary — her judicial decisions provide more than enough ammo for liberals and Democrats who would oppose her — they are deleterious to the greater cause of getting Trump out of office.
When the left and members of the media attempt to otherize a conservative Catholic woman this way, it only affirms what Trump has been selling to his supporters for four years: that Democrats are out to get them, that feminism only defends “some” women, that he is the only protector of American Christianity, and that the media is fake news. In an election year where turnout could be consequential down to the tens of voters, that could help mobilize enough of the evangelicals, suburban women and Republicans who’d been drifting away from Trump right back into his arms.
It’s also just gross. That in 2020 Catholics are still fair game for this kind of bigotry is shameful. We have to be better than this — but then, these days that often seems like too much to ask.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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