Amy Coney Barrett is 48, a mother of seven and a brilliant legal mind – and now she’s been the most controversial Supreme Court justice for at least a generation and possibly much longer.
She brings to the Supreme Court a short judicial career, a longer academic career and the hopes of a conservative legal movement that they have a safe 6-3 majority in the High Court for now, and a faithful vote for many decades to come. .
Coney Barrett’s life story makes her the sixth Catholic on the court, retains the bench’s six-three male-female roster and, for the first time, puts someone on the court who openly identifies to the charismatic wing of modern Christianity.
She is also the only judge not educated at Harvard or Yale, and the only judge in the Midwest and South, being born and raised in Louisiana and spending the rest of her life in Indiana.
Barrett grew up in Metairie, Louisiana as a member of the charismatic and conservative Catholic group People of Praise and one of seven children.
His father, Mike Coney, a former oil company lawyer, has been a prominent member for decades. Her lawyer-husband, Jesse, 46, whom she met when they were both students at Notre Dame University, was also raised in the group.
She had studied for her undergraduate degree at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, and was considering furthering her studies in English literature, but decided to study law instead, heading to Notre Dame whose law school built a reputation as a predominantly conservative.
Family photo of Amy Coney Barrett, her husband Jesse Barrett and their seven children Emma; Vivian; Tess; Jean Pierre; Liam; Juliet; and Benjamin. His large family was part of his appeal to the Conservatives. Vivian and John Peter are adopted from Haiti and their youngest son Benjamin has Down syndrome
Judge Amy Coney Barrett introduced her family during her confirmation hearing, including her children (from left, front row) Liam, Vivian, Tess, Juliet, Emma, JP and her husband Jesse, then her siblings (from left, second row) Vivian, Eileen, Michael, Megan and Amanda. Sister Carrie sat across the aisle
Amy Coney Barrett is seen in a family photo with her siblings and parents. In 2018, Barrett’s father, Mike Coney, wrote an online biography of himself on his church’s website, saying he joined People of Praise because he and his wife Linda “felt called to to live in a close-knit Christian community…a community that would help mold our children into good Christians and strengthen our marriage and family’
Family photo of Amy Coney Barrett, her husband Jesse Barrett and their seven children. She and her husband Jesse
Described by a professor as the best student he ever had, she became a clerk for Antonin Scalia, the judge who championed originalism as a judicial philosophy.
She had a brief career in private practice but became a law professor at Notre Dame, married, and had seven children.
The visible manifestation of his conservative Catholic beliefs was part of his appeal to political conservatives.
But he also drew attention to the small group, which has just over 2,000 members and does not represent mainstream Catholicism.
People of Praise is headquartered in Notre Dame’s hometown of South Bend, Indiana, and many of its core members have ties to the university. According to its website, the group has branches in 14 states as well as one in Canada and two in the Caribbean. It operates three Trinity schools from grades 7-12 and one elementary school.
Both – who lives in South Bend – and People of Praise appear to have gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal his affiliation. Articles mentioning her were removed from the group’s website shortly before she was considered for a seat on the Federal Court of Appeals in 2017.
Barrett’s ties to People of Praise only became public when the New York Times announced the story three weeks after his confirmation hearing as an appeals court judge, but before the committee had voted. The committee eventually split along party lines to confirm her. Three Democrats voted with the Republican majority in the full Senate vote.
People of Praise is strongly anti-abortion. He also rejects homosexuality. “Both are considered accepted by human law, but rejected by divine law,” the former member explained.
“Same-sex relationships are taboo and any LGBTQ inclination is seen as a temptation that must be overcome through prayer. If this fails, the member must lead a life of chastity.
Even dating is a no-no until a member has “prayed for their state of life” and decided they are ready to “marry for the Lord.” If they are not committed to marriage, they should not date.
Barrett earned her law degree at Notre Dame and graduated first in her class in 1997. She is pictured speaking at the start of Notre Dame Law School in 2018.
Barrett and her husband Jesse are members of People of Praise, a small group that teaches that wives should obey their husbands in everything
The group is probably best known for its doctrine that wives must obey their husbands in everything, and its system that all unmarried men and women must answer to their mentor – called a “chief”. Husbands play the role of “head” for their wives.
The “leaders” are so influential that they give directions on who a member should date or even marry, how to raise children, whether to take a new job, and where to live.
Until recently, the ruler was known as the “maidservant”. But this title was dropped after the success of the dystopian TV show The Handmaid’s Tale and the negative connotations it brought to the title.
Author Margaret Atwood, who wrote the original novel, said it was based on a group that had similar views to People of Praise.
Conservative Catholic beliefs have bled into her public life: She is a former member of Notre Dame’s “Faculty for Life,” and in 2015 she signed a letter to the Catholic Church claiming that “the teachings of ‘Church are the truth’.
Among these teachings were the “value of human life from conception to natural death” and the values of marriage and family “based on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman”.
She has previously written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct. Liberals took those comments as a threat to the Roe v. Wade of 1973 legalizing abortion nationwide.
Barrett wrote that she agrees “with those who say that a judge’s duty is to the Constitution and therefore it is more legitimate for her to uphold her best understanding of the Constitution rather than precedent.” that she thinks clearly in conflict with her”.
What she said is the distillation of originalism and raises the possibility that she could tear up precedent if she sees it as inconsistent with the original constitution.
This puts her in line with Scalia and the Republican senators who voted for her and expect her to govern accordingly for decades to come; it puts her violently at odds with those who disagree, and sets her on the right track to be a judge whose presence on the bench will divide opinion as long as she stays there.