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Senate Approves Barrett Nomination Despite Dem's 'Frightening' Religious Litmus Test

Amy Coney Barrett grilled about Catholic faith
Amy Coney Barrett grilled about Catholic faith

The US Senate has confirmed Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana to be US circuit judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Barrett made headlines during her confirmation hearing when Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein argued that Barrett's Catholic religious beliefs were too prominent in her life.

Republican senators joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ahead of Barrett's confirmation vote in a press conference to say they think Feinstein's comments were unacceptable and unconstitutional.

Barrett is a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a mother of seven. She has written about religion's place in public life and given lectures before Christian legal groups.

In September, Feinstein, D-Calif., told Barrett, "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."

Barrett was then grilled by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who asked the nominee how her Catholic faith might influence her decisions as a federal judge.

Since the hearing, many senators have called out Feinstein for crossing a line. In a floor speech this month, Sen. Jeff Flake, R - Ariz., asked his colleagues to evaluate Barrett on her qualifications to serve as a judge, not on her religious beliefs. 

"What is remarkable is that I need to say this in 2017, it bears repeating. A Roman Catholic can be a faithful steward of the law. So can an Episcopalian, so can a Mormon, so can a Muslim, and so can an atheist," Flake said. 

"We in the Senate give the president advice and consent on judicial nominations. We therefore should examine their jurisprudential views and their qualifications. We must not examine their relationships with the Almighty. I sincerely hope that this body will step back from that dangerous ledge and evaluate Professor Barrett based on her impeccable qualifications - not where she attends church," he continued. 

New York Times best selling author and radio host Eric Metaxas says it is "frightening" to see a US senator question a nominee this way. 

"To me the idea that US senators are this ignorant about this incredibly, utterly central element in American freedom, I find frightening and it should be a wakeup call to everybody," Metaxas told CBN News. "When Sen. Feinstein did this recently, I thought, 'She actually thinks that what she's saying is okay. She thinks it's just politics.' It's not just politics. It's fundamentally unconstitutional."

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, agrees with Metaxas, saying the senators should know better than to give a nominee a religious litmus test. 

"Senators Feinstein and Durbin know full well that the Constitution prohibits any religious test for office, yet they proceeded with an offensive grilling of a highly qualified judicial nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, asking inappropriate questions about her Catholic faith," Ferguson said in a statement.

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