Dianne Feinstein co-authored a 2001 book, "Nine and Counting," written with the eight other female senators at the time. It belongs in the pantheon of literary advice to women from women in politics, including a 2009 book addressed to America’s daughters by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I found these tomes recently in my office, alongside an exclamation point of sorts: a Barbie for President doll that a group dedicated to electing a woman for president sent me some years ago.
I also found a sticker someone had handed me when I emceed a “Women for Roberts” press conference in what seems like a lifetime ago, when John Roberts was being opposed by some of the same groups who were recently opposing Amy Coney Barrett for nomination as a federal judge. I was reminded how one freshman senator at the time wrote to President George W. Bush in protest because he had the audacity to look to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court with a man.
On that kind of logic, those who make a vocation of insisting they are champions of women in Washington should have been cheerleading for Barrett’s confirmation by Congress to the judiciary. Instead, as you may have heard, Sen. Feinstein told Barrett during her September confirmation hearing that Catholic “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.” Of course, for those who believe what the Catholic Church teaches, that’s not an insult, but a compliment -- or at least an encouragement that one might be answering the call.
During a press conference in defense of Barrett’s nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed out that Barrett’s faith is important to her and that she’s spoken freely about it, which “she’s allowed to do that in this country, by the way.” Mark Rienzi, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which defended Muslim congressman Keith Ellison’s right to carry a Quran when he was sworn into Congress) and a professor of law at The Catholic University of America, pointed out that “religious tests ... are wrong and unconstitutional” and are “terrible echoes of tired and bigoted arguments.”
And it’s even more than that. We ought to want people of faith in our midst. Because we need them.
In her book "It’s Dangerous to Believe," which is a plea to secular liberals to realize the illiberalism behind their hostility to people of faith in the public square, Mary Eberstadt argues that the new “Inquisitors” are unintentionally harming “good works.”
She writes: “The alliance arrayed against traditionalist Christians claims to be on the side of the poor and the marginalized. But its soft persecution of those same Christians jeopardizes charities that help the poor and marginalized."
She continues: "What best explains the incessant attacks by progressive activists on Christian charities is that the activists are behaving not like rational actors seeking the public good, but like quasi-religious zealots. ... (T)hey are seeking to spread their gospel in the world for its betterment -- including to quasi-heathens, that is, traditionalist Christians who have yet to conform to the commandments of the sexual revolution.”
You can easily extend that, or unpack that further, as applying to women. While Amy Barrett didn’t need or probably want, say, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s help, such a supposed bastion of women’s rights incessantly attacked her -- and members of the House and Senate who voted for her -- even after her confirmation, including spreading misleading claims that she wanted to essentially theocratize the judiciary.
Rev. John Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, wrote to Sen. Feinstein in protest of her opposition to Barrett, calling the dogma talk from her “chilling.” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, made the further point that government should never get involved with pressing religious people on whether they really believe what they profess to and disqualifying them if they do.
The truth of the matter is that people living their faith loudly in the world are a win for everyone, something people of all faiths, including the secular liberal one, can welcome. And let’s debate the issues we actually disagree on out in the open, without euphemisms. That is, unless your ideology is stifling your magnanimity and true devotion to the common good.