The latest cause for anti-religious bigotry: Make Justice Barrett recuse herself


US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett looks on as she meets with Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 1st, 2020.
US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett looks on as she meets with Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 1st, 2020. Graeme Jennings/Graeme Jennings

The latest cause for anti-religious bigotry: Make Justice Barrett recuse herself

Some disaffected members of the organization that ran my high school in South Bend, Indiana, are making a very poor argument to pressure Justice Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from a case involving homosexuality.

The case, 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, pertains to a web developer who refused to work on websites celebrating same-sex weddings.

I attended Trinity School at Greenlawn, a school run by the People of Praise, where Barrett once served on the board. (She served there long after I was gone, and I never had any involvement with the People of Praise aside from attending the school.)

Somehow, Barrett’s involvement with Trinity has become part of the excuse for a pressure campaign to make her recuse herself from the 303 Creative case. Trinity, consistently one of the best schools in Indiana, is a Christian school. Wherever the topic comes up (not that it did often in my own experience), Trinity hews to traditional Christian teaching against homosexual activity, and indeed, again, any manner of sexual activity outside the context of a sacramental marriage between one man and one woman. It wasn’t really an issue in my day, but they also allege that there has been an issue regarding same-sex couples wanting to send their children there. It would, after all, send mixed signals for a private school with a Christian mission to admit students whose parents despise such teachings and openly live contrary to them.

These ex-People of Praise members have every right to their views and to their feelings about the organization. But you must understand what they’re trying to pull here. They are waging a campaign against judicial independence on the one hand, and in favor of anti-religious discrimination on the other.

You hold these beliefs? Whoops, there goes your social media account. There goes your job. There goes your school. There goes your right to serve in public office. Give them a few years, and next, it will be your right to vote.

Obviously, this pressure campaign won’t work on Barrett, but that isn’t the point. The point is to delegitimize our nation’s judiciary in advance, so that decisions upholding the constitutional rights of religious believers, which are human rights, by the way, and every bit as valid as any other right, are seen as somehow tainted. Everything Justice Samuel Alito predicted after the court imposed gay marriage on all 50 states in the Obergefell decision is now coming to pass:

Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority [in Obergefell] attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected. We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools … By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facilitates the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas. Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turnabout is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Nation will experience bitter and lasting wounds.

It is not even ironic, but rather fully expected and fitting, that those who most loudly dismissed Alito’s concerns in his dissent are now, by their own actions, making him look like some kind of prophet.

Judicial recusals are for cases in which judges personally own stock in companies with business before the court, or perhaps where their own family members are litigants. They cannot be used to weed out judges for their personal or religious views, which is obviously what’s going on here.

It is extremely weak and fatuous to argue that Barrett should recuse herself because she is involved with organizations that adhere to very common Christian teachings about homosexuality. It still would be if she openly spoke about such things herself, not that I know of her ever doing so. If you’re going to make Barrett recuse from this case, you might as well ask everyone who is gay to refrain from participating in cases like this one, which would also be stupid. But again, the principle isn’t the point for these activists. The point is to make sure that the power to demonize and harm others is in their own hands, not in the hands of the people who haven’t rolled over and embraced their religion of popular morality.

It’s sort of sad to see people who fell out with the People of Praise because of its supposed intolerance should turn around and exercise precisely the kind of intolerance that Alito predicted. To them, there is no right and wrong, only power, and the only question is who is wielding it.

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