As long as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been in Washington, you’d think she would know there can be no religious test for public office. But apparently, she did not get that memo.
Feinstein, a member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked University of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s appointee to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, about her Catholic faith as it relates to her ability to issue unbiased judgments in legal cases.
“Whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma,” Feinstein said, but “the law is totally different.”
Feinstein then made a personal charge against Barrett.
“And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country,” Feinstein said, the New York Times reported.
“Big issues?” What could Feinstein possibly mean by this? Abortion, perhaps? Gay marriage? The Catholic Church officially opposes both. But for Feinstein to suggest that just because Barrett is a practicing Catholic she can’t be a fair judge is not only ill-informed, it’s bigoted.
As Noah Feldman, professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University, wrote in a Sept. 11 opinion editorial for Bloomberg, “religious affiliation isn’t judicial destiny.”
Feldman, who served as a clerk to former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, pointed to various decisions handed down by Supreme Court justices who are also Catholic.
Feldman pointed out Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Catholic, voted in support of abortion rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, then did it again more than two decades later in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, also Catholic, would not have been nominated by President Obama if she were not a reliable vote to affirm abortion rights. The late justice William Brennan, also Catholic, regularly voted with pro-abortion justices as well.
Feinstein’s assertion is comparable to statements she condemned not long ago.
Feinstein, virtually every Democrat, and a number of Republicans criticized President Trump for his proposed travel ban because, as they argued, it imposes a religious test on those traveling to the U.S.
If Feinstein sees it as unacceptable to impose such a test on immigrants traveling to the country, how can she find it appropriate to administer a religious test for judicial branch appointees?
Feinstein should apologize for her bigoted comments toward Barrett and acknowledge, as President Obama once said, that elections have consequences.
One of those consequences is the president gets to appoint judges.