MALIBU, April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The most conservative sitting justice of the U.S. Supreme Court spoke out this month in defense of a potential future colleague against left-wing criticism directed at Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Catholic faith.
President Donald Trump appointed Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor, to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. During her confirmation hearings, several Democrats suggested she could not be trusted to rule impartially due to her deep Catholic faith.
“You are controversial. You have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said. “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 years in this country.”
Justice Clarence Thomas took a question about the exchange and the broader subject of considering judicial nominees’ religious views during his April 4 address to Pepperdine University School of Law’s annual banquet, the Daily Caller News Foundation reports.
“I thought we got away from religious tests,” said Thomas, who is also Catholic. “I don’t think I know a single judge who has allowed religion to interfere with their jobs.”
If anything, he argued that a judge of faith attempting to use the bench to control Americans was less likely than such designs from a judge dominated by other ideologies. “I think if you start the day on your knees, you approach your job differently from when you start thinking that someone anointed you to impose your will on others,” Thomas said.
Despite the uproar over the attacks on Barrett, Senate Democrats didn’t stop viewing conservative Catholicism as a potential disqualifier for judicial nominees. In January, Sens. Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris questioned whether Trump judicial nominee Brian Buescher could be trusted to hear so-called “reproductive rights” cases “fairly and impatiently,” given his membership in the Catholic charitable organization the Knights of Columbus.
Article VI of the United States Constitution declares that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
As a pro-life originalist and former Scalia clerk who has criticized excessive deference to judicial precedent, Barrett has been a favorite of pro-lifers and grassroots conservatives for the first two SCOTUS vacancies of Trump’s tenure. While the president selected the more moderate Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy last fall, Axios reported last month that Trump has privately said he’s “saving her” to replace left-wing justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85 years old.
Whenever the next Supreme Court vacancy comes, the 70-year-old Thomas has no intention of being the one to leave anytime soon. “I’m not retiring,” he said at the Pepperdine event.