Amy Coney Barrett’s religion is fair game

Ignoring faith means ignoring the parasitic ramifications of the anti-Roe project.

Barrett vows to interpret laws 'as they are written'

The Senate Democrats avoided Monday the subject of religion. During the first day of Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings, they focused on health care and how Donald Trump’s third nominee might rule after the US Supreme Court hears oral arguments next month on the Affordable Care Act. Avoiding religion was probably wise given the Republicans’ level of fake outrage over fake “religious bigotry.” The rest of us, however, don’t need to play along. Barrett’s Catholicism is fair game.

Yes, I know. Highly influential liberal pundits, and some liberal pundits striving mightily to become influential, argue that religion should be off limits. First, they say, because a person of sincerely held religious beliefs can adjudicate impartially. Second, there’s enough to talk about without bringing up Barrett’s faith. While I presume these liberals mean well (to be clear, in presuming this, I’m being generous), they’re wrong.

What they want to say but fear saying—because saying it out loud for everyone to hear would be too gothic and horrifying for the American mainstream—is what they really mean.

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They assume, for one thing, that religion and politics can be disentangled. Sometimes they can be. Sometimes they can’t be. For another, these liberals behave as if politics is somehow taking religion hostage. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote last night: “When politicians use faith as an excuse to pass and uphold laws that seize control of people’s bodies but not guarantee them healthcare, feed the poor, shelter the homeless, or welcome the stranger, you have to wonder if it’s really about faith at all.”

No, you don’t have to wonder. It’s about their faith, full stop. Millions in this country—white evangelical Protestants and conservative white Catholics chief among them—root their genuinely held religious beliefs in opposition to modernity, which is to say, in politics. There is, therefore, no appreciable difference between them. The more our society moves in the direction of greater freedom, equity and justice for all people, the more these revanchists believe their faith is under siege; and the more they feel their faith is under siege, the more prepared they are to go to war over “religious freedom.”

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I don’t know if Barrett intends to help reverse Roe any more than you do. I do know—and you know—that that’s why Donald Trump picked her. That’s why she accepted his illegitimate nomination. Overturning Roe, or at least gutting it in order to permit the states to outlaw abortion, has been the goal for decades. The Republicans are so close to the prize, they’re willing to sacrifice the presidency, the Senate and the court’s credibility. The more our society moves in the direction of greater freedom, equity and justice for all people—the more American women enjoy a monopoly over their own bodies—the more the revanchists demand an minoritarian veto. They are demanding, and getting, an autocratic usurpation of the majority’s will in the name of religion.

Not just any religion. A very specific strain of authoritarian and white Christianity. This strain believes that one person has a right to use another person, without her consent, in order to stay alive. The person being used by another person to stay alive has a moral obligation to forfeit the monopoly over her body, such that her body isn’t private property so much as public property jointly owned by members of their shared faith. Importantly, if the person being used by another person to stay alive refuses, she is subject to various punishments, including, if the court overturns Roe, legal ones. There’s a reason Republicans want to make Barrett’s religion off limits. They don’t want a majority to see outlawing abortion as the establishment of a state religion.

You can’t see violations of the First Amendment if you insist that religion is off limits. What’s more, you can’t see the treasonous bad faith of the revanchists. They don’t care about babies. If they did, they’d be up in arms over news of the president’s treatment for Covid-19. He was injected with an “antibody cocktail” tested on stem cells derived from a baby aborted nearly half a century ago. White evangelical Protestants and white conservative Catholics usually say “fetal tissue,” even in life-saving drug treatments, is a grave offense to God, but not this time. According to Business Insider, anti-abortion groups said it’s OK, because the president wasn’t involved in the original abortion.

That’s bullshit, but at least they’re dropping the charade. What they want to say but fear saying—because saying it out loud for everyone to hear would be too gothic and horrifying for mainstream America—is what they really mean. What they really mean is that it’s OK for one person to use another person’s body without his or her consent. The president, using remnants of the body of an aborted baby, didn’t do anything wrong. He was exercising the God-given right that babies (men) have to access another person’s body (a woman’s). This right isn’t just political. It’s political and religious. Ignoring that means ignoring the parasitic ramifications of the anti-Roe project.

So don’t ignore religion. It is central. None of this makes sense when it’s not.

—John Stoehr