SCOTUS Appointee on the Path to Merge Church and State
Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?
This is a question that I find myself contemplating a lot lately. The term “separation of church and state” was first introduced in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in 1872, but the idea has been around since the First Amendment was ratified in 1791. Our country created this separation for a reason, so why are we suddenly choosing to ignore it? We are moving backwards, rather than progressing in the ways we should be as a country. A significant figure in this current regression is Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed on October 26, 2020 after being nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the seat of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away in September of this year. News of Barrett taking the position brought up a lot of fear and outrage for many people, myself included.
Barrett’s new position as a SCOTUS member poses a threat to the rights of many people, including but not limited to, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Barrett is anti LGBTQ+, anti birth control, and pro-life; essentially, her social and political views align with the extreme religious right. She associates her social and political beliefs with her religion, strongly stating her affiliation as a dedicated member of the Catholic church. This in itself is quite problematic, since religion and politics are supposed to be separated by law. Barrett is poised to take us back hundreds of years, when our country decided to legally separate religion and politics, implying that a merge between the two would be more beneficial. As an appointee of the SCOTUS– especially one who is responsible for defending our constitution– Barrett should remove her own religious stance from her work as much as possible, rather than rely essentially on her religion alone to make decisions.
These changes have prompted many religious leaders to speak out and publicly take a political stance, including the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. Francis shared his support for a form of gay marriage by saying “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God, you can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.” His pronouncement, while not specifically stated, was in response to Barrett’s induction to the Supreme Court. This is what appears to be a final attempt to dispute Barrett’s statements that she would like to revoke the legal rights of homosexual marriage within the United States– A law that was passed by the Supreme Court only five years ago in 2015. This statement from the Pope directly discredits Barrett’s religious stance on the matter, as her own religious leader has said the opposite of what her previous legal writings argue. Legal writings that are, obviously, informed by a belief that supposedly up-holds what the Catholic Church teaches.
With our recent Presidential election, news about Justice Barrett’s appointment and the influence of her religious views on her legal opinions have dwindled from mainstream media coverage. Many believe that following President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration in January of 2021, things will improve. This had led to more of a lull in the news about Justice Barrett, and an increase in information regarding both our current and future President. I know I am not the only one who has been able to rest easier being assured that prominent members of both the political world - with President Elect Biden - and the religious world - with Pope Francis - will work to protect the rights of those at great risk of losing them with Barrett’s appointment, and the extreme movement working to merge church and state.