University of Notre Dame president John Jenkins issued a rebuke to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Saturday, stating that the lawmaker's line of questioning into the religious beliefs of a judicial nominee and Notre Dame professor was "chilling."
"It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge," Jenkins wrote in a letter to Feinstein.
At issue were comments Feinstein made during a hearing Wednesday on the nomination for Amy Coney Barrett, a Roman Catholic, for a spot on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans have raised the concern that Barrett was effectively subjected to a religious test.
"When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein said. "And that's of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country."
Feinstein's office later clarified to National Review that she was referring to abortion rights.
"I am one in whose heart 'dogma lives loudly', as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation," Jenkins, a Holy Cross priest, wrote Saturday. "Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology."
What prompted Feinstein's comments, in part, was a 1998 article Barrett wrote on the role regarding the responsibilities of Catholic judges with respect to the death penalty. Barrett's co-author for that article, Catholic University president John Garvey, defended her in an op-ed published by the Washington Examiner Thursday, writing that "our point was that judges should respect the law, even laws they disagree with."
On Friday, Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber, a constitutional scholar, wrote to Feinstein to defend Barrett, stating that "the questions directed to Professor Barrett about her faith were not consistent with the principle set forth in the Constitution's 'no religious test' clause."