"Dogma" to Catholics refers to a truth revealed by God and taught by the Church for the benefit of the faithful. For Catholics, deviating from dogma is prohibited. But to Senate Democrats, adhering to dogma is verboten.
"The dogma lives loudly in you, and that's of concern." That's how Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, attacked Amy Barrett, a nominee for the court of appeals and a faithful Catholic mother of seven.
Feinstein's apparent view, that a faithful Catholic who listens to Rome's teachings is therefore unfit for a judgeship, is a foul assault on America's founding principles. Sadly, it's also increasingly in vogue in the mainstream of the Left and the Democratic Party.
Sen. Bernie Sanders was explicit this summer, saying he opposed longtime policy aide Russ Vought's nomination for deputy budget director because of Vought's religious views. Specifically, Vought is a Christian who believes that professed belief in Christ is the only way to heaven. Sanders presented zero evidence that this belief had affected or would affect Vought's ability to do his job. Simply holding that religious view, which Christians have held for centuries, was enough to disqualify Vought in the old egalitarian's eyes.
It's been central to Democrats and the Left's recent culture war campaigns to rule basic Christian views beyond the realm of permissible dissent. If a businessman refuses to participate in a gay marriage, he is therefore a bigot who must be sued, prosecuted, and driven out of business. If you reject the novel gender theory, as Christianity requires you to do, you are a bigot, regardless of how lovingly you treat your neighbors of all orientations.
And so it is with Barrett. Her flaw in Feinstein's eyes is that she listens too much to the teachings of her Church, a Church with 70 million adherents in the U.S.
Feinstein pointed to a paper Barrett wrote 20 years ago mulling how a Catholic judge ought to behave if involved in a case where the law contradicted Catholic teaching.
Barrett and co-author John Garvey walked through the complex nuances of conscience, law, and recusal, concluding that a judge whose conscience forbids her from sentencing someone to death (as Catholic teaching would sometimes forbid) often is morally bound to recuse herself from a case where the law calls for this. "Judges cannot, nor should they try to, align our legal system with the Church's moral teaching whenever the two diverge."
This is the model for a judge of integrity. A judge must step aside if her religious beliefs clash with the law she is sworn to execute and adjudicate. So, how could this bother Feinstein?
We have a few guesses.
Co-author Garvey, now president of the Catholic University of America, wrote this week, "I suspect what really troubled them was that, as a Catholic, her pro-life views might extend beyond criminal defendants to the unborn." Of course, in the law journal article, Garvey and Barrett had argued forcefully that a religious judge must not replace the law with her own conscience. So, the abortion objection to Barrett is simply that she holds the Catholic view that it's wrong to take the life of the unborn.
There's a broader "problem" though. Everything about Barrett's life, including her education, her writings, her adoption of two children, and her family of nine suggests that her belief is deeply held. That's what makes her troubling to Feinstein.
That's a religious test for office. Feinstein isn't objecting to a fanatic who would replace the law with personal dictates. Feinstein thinks there's a limit to how sincere a Christian's beliefs are allowed to get before she's disqualified for public office.
Feinstein is part of a movement to place the tenets of Christianity beyond bounds. She took her talking points from the liberal Alliance for Justice, whose rap sheet on Barrett mentions her religion six times on one page. This is a radical and dangerous movement, that is by constitutional definition un-American. All liberals and secular Americans of goodwill have an obligation to speak out against the Feinstein view and to speak up for the pluralism and religious tolerance upon which this nation and its institutions are built.