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U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Barrett Tied to Group That Subjugates Women

Men are divinely ordained as the "head" of the family and faith.
IMAGE Alex Brandon/Associated Press
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U.S. President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court has close ties to a charismatic Christian religious group that holds men are divinely ordained as the "head" of the family and faith.

Former members of the group, called People of Praise, say it teaches that wives must submit to the will of their husbands.

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Federal appeals judge Amy Coney Barrett has not commented publicly about her own or her family's involvement, and a People of Praise spokesman declined to say whether she and her husband are current members.

But Barrett, 48, grew up in New Orleans in a family deeply connected to the organization and as recently as 2017 she served as a trustee at the People of Praise-affiliated Trinity Schools Inc., according to the nonprofit organization's tax records and other documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Only members of the group serve on the schools' board, according to the system's president.

The AP also reviewed 15 years of back issues of the organization's internal magazine, Vine and Branches, which has published birth announcements, photos and other mentions of Barrett and her husband, Jesse, whose family has been active in the group for four decades. On Friday, all editions of the magazine were removed from the group's website.

People of Praise is a religious community based in charismatic Catholicism, a movement that grew out of the influence of Pentecostalism, which emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus and can include baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. The group organizes and meets outside the purview of a church and includes people from several Christian denominations, but its members are mostly Roman Catholic.

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Barrett's affiliation with a conservative religious group that elevates the role of men has drawn particular scrutiny given that she would be filling the high court seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist icon who spent her legal career fighting for women to have full equality.

Barrett, by contrast, is being hailed by religious conservatives as an ideological heir to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch abortion-rights opponent for whom she clerked as a young lawyer.
In accepting Trump's nomination Saturday, the Catholic mother of seven said she shares Scalia's judicial philosophy.

"A judge must apply the law as written," Barrett said. "Judges are not policy makers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold."

Barrett's advocates are trying to frame questions about her involvement in People of Praise as anti-Catholic bigotry ahead of her upcoming Senate nomination hearings.

Asked about People of Praise in a televised interview last week, Vice President Mike Pence responded, "The intolerance expressed during her last confirmation about her Catholic faith I really think was a disservice to the process and a disappointment to millions of Americans."

But some people familiar with the group and charismatic religious groups like it say Barrett's involvement should be examined before she receives a lifelong appointment to the highest court in the nation.

"It's not about the faith," said Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, who has studied similar groups. He says a typical feature of charismatic groups is the dynamic of a strong hierarchical leadership, and a strict view of the relationship between women and men.

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Several people familiar with People of Praise, including some current members, told the AP that the group has been misunderstood. They call it a Christian fellowship, focused on building community. One member described it as a "family of families," who commit themselves to each other in mutual support to live together "through thick and thin."

But the group has also been portrayed by some former members, and in books, blogs and news reports, as hierarchical, authoritarian and controlling, where men dominate their wives, leaders dictate members' life choices and those who leave are shunned.

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