What religion is Dianne Feinstein

Amy Coney Barrett and the People of PraiseThe pious judge

Very few Americans had ever heard of People of Praise before it became known that Judge Amy Coney Barrett was a member. Many media outlets refer to them as "closely connected" or "closed" Christian communities, and this closeness encourages speculation about what exactly its members believe and how they live.

Founded in Indiana in 1971, "People of Praise" is not an actual church, but a Christian community whose members belong to different religions - 90 percent of them, however, are Catholics. The religious journalist Michael O’Loughlin did an intensive study of the group for the Jesuit magazine "America Magazine".

Judge and 'handmaid'

"This community is more like Pentecostal Christianity than traditional Catholicism. The members emphasize how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers. Its practices include speaking in tongues, healing services and worship music. These are people who live their faith intensely every day and not just go to church once on Sunday. They meet in small groups to pray, and some live together too. "

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Joe Biden's campaign strategy of reaching out to devout voters definitely makes sense, North America expert Michael Hochgeschwender told the Dlf: "Catholics want to be addressed".

Most recently, research by the news agency AP and the Washington Post caused a sensation, according to which Judge Amy Coney Barrett lived in the house of one of the founders of the People of Praise during her student days. She also held the rank of "handmaid", a kind of female mentor in the People of Praise organization who advises and guides younger women on questions of faith and life.

Above all, former members of the community have spoken out in recent weeks and criticized the strict hierarchy that would apply there. Some speak of oppression.

Michael O'Loughlin: "The people I spoke to defend 'People of Praise' as a community in which they can live their lives consciously. But former members complain that there is a lot of control there, especially by men About women. That is not too transparent, and because the group is independent of the institutionalized church, charismatic leaders may emerge who may not be properly trained in pastoral care and who therefore tend to control their members. "

Lifelong bond

Members give five percent of their income to the community and, after a probationary period, make some sort of promise that they will stay with the group for life. Critics fear that the views of the "People of Praise" - such as the rejection of abortions or same-sex partnerships - could influence a future Supreme Court judge Barrett in her judicial decisions.

Michael O'Loughlin: "She has said that her religion will not influence her judgments. But it is legitimate to ask what influence this group has on her. It would have been perfectly appropriate if the senators had asked - to understand." who she is and why she represents which values. "

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But the Democratic senators wisely omitted Barrett's religion from last week's hearing. In 2017, when she was appointed judge at the court of appeal, the Democrat Dianne Feinstein had explicitly addressed the candidate Barrett about her religion:

"When you read your speeches, you get the impression that it is a doctrine of faith that speaks from you. And that is important, especially when it comes to important issues for which many people in this country have fought for a very long time."

The question of faith

The Democrats had drawn a lot of criticism at the time. North America expert Michael Hochgeschwender from Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich recently said on Deutschlandfunk:

"You made a grave mistake when Dianne Feinstein from California asked about the faith of the candidate Barrett when she was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court, because that actually violates the American constitution. There must be no religious test files . Century times, and that was forbidden by the Supreme Court at the time. So you move on very unsteady ground, on the democratic side. "

Elections in the USA (picture alliance / Wolfram Steinberg)

Many Republicans use this faux pas to this day to criticize the Democrats as anti-religious. President Donald Trump defended Barrett at a press conference in late September against alleged attacks on her belief:

Donald Trump (press conference on September 28, 2020): "The Catholic church is very united, they are very thrilled that we chose Amy ... (...) I thought we settled this with the election of John F. Kennedy, but seriously they are going after her Catholicism. I will stand with her, fight with her. "

The Catholic Church is behind his decision for Amy Barrett, says Trump. He would have thought that since the election of the Catholic John F. Kennedy as president 60 years ago, something had changed. But they actually target them because of their Catholicism. But he stand by her and fight for her. In the hearing in the Senate, however, the Democrats tried above all to show the socio-political consequences of Barrett's appointment, especially in health insurance.

With the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, six of the nine Supreme Court justices are Catholics. "For the longest time in history, there were no Catholics at all in the Supreme Court," says Michael O'Loughlin, "then for a few decades a seat was essentially reserved for a Catholic. And now we could have a strong Catholic majority at the Supreme Court. However, these Catholic judges represent an extremely wide range of political ideologies and legal conceptions. Instead of focusing on the religion of the judges, one should perhaps look at their legal work. "