We need peo­ple of faith in the pub­lic square

The Standard Journal - - COMMENTARY - By Kathryn Jean Lopez NEA Contributo­r

Dianne Fe­in­stein co-au­thored a 2001 book, “Nine and Count­ing,” writ­ten with the eight other fe­male sen­a­tors at the time. It be­longs in the pan­theon of lit­er­ary ad­vice to women from women in pol­i­tics, in­clud­ing a 2009 book ad­dressed to Amer­ica’s daugh­ters by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I found these tomes re­cently in my of­fice, along­side an ex­cla­ma­tion point of sorts: a Bar­bie for Pres­i­dent doll that a group ded­i­cated to elect­ing a woman for pres­i­dent sent me some years ago.

I also found a sticker some­one had handed me when I em­ceed a “Women for Roberts” press con­fer­ence in what seems like a life­time ago, when John Roberts was be­ing op­posed by some of the same groups who were re­cently op­pos­ing Amy Coney Bar­rett for nom­i­na­tion as a fed­eral judge. I was re­minded how one fresh­man sen­a­tor at the time wrote to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush in protest be­cause he had the au­dac­ity to look to re­place San­dra Day O’Con­nor on the Supreme Court with a man.

On that kind of logic, those who make a vo­ca­tion of in­sist­ing they are cham­pi­ons of women in Wash­ing­ton should have been cheer­lead­ing for Bar­rett’s con­fir­ma­tion by Congress to the ju­di­ciary. In­stead, as you may have heard, Sen. Fe­in­stein told Bar­rett dur­ing her Septem­ber con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing that Catholic “dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of con­cern when you come to big is­sues that large num­bers of peo­ple have fought for for years in this coun­try.” Of course, for those who be­lieve what the Catholic Church teaches, that’s not an in­sult, but a com­pli­ment — or at least an en­cour­age­ment that one might be an­swer­ing the call.

Dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in de­fense of Bar­rett’s nom­i­na­tion, Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell pointed out that Bar­rett’s faith is im­por­tant to her and that she’s spo­ken freely about it, which “she’s al­lowed to do that in this coun­try, by the way.” Mark Rienzi, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Re­li­gious Lib­erty (which de­fended Mus­lim con­gress­man Keith El­li­son’s right to carry a Qu­ran when he was sworn into Congress) and a pro­fes­sor of law at The Catholic Univer­sity of Amer­ica, pointed out that “re­li­gious tests ... are wrong and un­con­sti­tu­tional” and are “ter­ri­ble echoes of tired and big­oted ar­gu­ments.”

And it’s even more than that. We ought to want peo­ple of faith in our midst. Be­cause we need them.

In her book “It’s Dan­ger­ous to Be­lieve,” which is a plea to sec­u­lar lib­er­als to re­al­ize the il­lib­er­al­ism be­hind their hos­til­ity to peo­ple of faith in the pub­lic square, Mary Eber­stadt ar­gues that the new “In­quisi­tors” are un­in­ten­tion­ally harm­ing “good works.”

The truth of the mat­ter is that peo­ple liv­ing their faith loudly in the world are a win for ev­ery­one, some­thing peo­ple of all faiths, in­clud­ing the sec­u­lar lib­eral one, can wel­come. And let’s de­bate the is­sues we ac­tu­ally dis­agree on out in the open, with­out eu­phemisms. That is, un­less your ide­ol­ogy is sti­fling your mag­na­nim­ity and true de­vo­tion to the com­mon good.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is se­nior fel­low at the Na­tional Re­view In­sti­tute, ed­i­tor-at-large of Na­tional Re­view On­line and found­ing di­rec­tor of Catholic Voices USA. She can be con­tacted at [email protected]­tion­al­re­view.com.

Kathryn Jean Lopez

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