Discrimination in the Senate

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

photo credit

Hello Everyone! It is great to have a moment to spend writing. It would seem that the only thing people are talking about is the election. With all the questions of election fraud, the confirmation of supreme court justice Amy Coney Barrett seems to be a distant memory for some, but not for me. During the hearing, I watched as Democratic senators repeatedly questioned Amy Coney Barrett's ability to do her job. I understand how the confirmation hearings work, so I am not contending the senators' right to question Mrs. Barrett. I am challenging whether her religion is an appropriate basis for judging her ability to do her job. I found this inappropriate for several reasons.

The first amendment guarantees that any American citizen has the freedom to practice any religion of their choosing. The constitution also states that there is to be a separation of church and state. Perhaps what concerns me the most about that hearing is the insinuation that being able to do one's job and be Catholic are mutually exclusive ideas. Lastly, the hypocrisy and clear sexism that these senators exhibit as they rip apart Amy Coney Barrett and support the Presidential candidacy of President-Elect Joe Biden is unacceptable. Not one of those Senators questioned whether Joe Biden's Catholic background would impede his ability to hold the land's highest office. Whereas at Amy Coney Barrett's senate hearing, the only thing the democratic senators could talk about was her religion, age, and the fact that she is the mother of seven children.

The year 2020 seems to be the era where everyone is more aware, more politically correct. In the 21st century, the first amendment rights are the most heavily used rights in the constitution. Under the auspice of the first amendment, we fight for black rights, trans rights. When a person or organization violates our rights, we use our first amendment right to assembly. We march and protest in the streets and let the world know we will not take these offenses lying down. With this era of love, acceptance, and a culture of inclusivity, why is no one standing up for Amy Coney Barrett?

College campuses are allowed to distribute booklets of phrases that are no longer okay to say because of the phrase's potential for offense. This booklet distribution is protected by the first amendment under the freedom of the press (The irony that one first amendment right is being used to limit another first amendment right is not lost on me.) We use our right to free speech on social media to cancel things that displease us. We espouse progressive values and acceptance. However, it would seem that we are cherry-picking what part of the first amendment we accept as inalienable truths and which ones are negotiable. For example, you have the freedom to assemble unless you are gathering to support a candidate that the mainstream does not like. We have the freedom of the press unless we are publishing a statement with which larger society disagrees. You have the freedom of speech unless you have an unpopular opinion. Then there is the other part of the First amendment that is suddenly no longer okay to discuss, the freedom of religion.

When did the topic of religion become a dirty word? Why is it illegal for employers to bar a regular citizen from employment based on their religion, but we can block a supreme court justice from being confirmed on this same basis. If any American citizen walked into a job interview and were subjected to the line of questioning to which the Senate subjected Amy Coney Barrett, the potential employee would have grounds to sue, or at the very least complain. Freedom of religion is the reason for everything Americans have now. The first English settlers came to America for an opportunity to practice their religion without prosecution. (Again, the irony is not lost on me that they gained their religious freedom and decided to burn accused witches at the stake shortly after, but that is a different story for another day.) There is a critical statement within the constitution that states the establishment is not permitted to make laws pertaining to or prohibiting religion; the jurisprudence of the first amendment's statement regarding religion supports the idea that there is a separation of church and state. Upon examining Amy Coney Barrett's ruling record, I find that what senators call proof of religious bias I am calling proof that Justice Barret is an originalist like her mentor Judge Scalia.

As an originalist, the senators could have argued that her ruling record demonstrates an unwillingness to interpret the constitution in a relevant way to their constituency. They also could have argued that her nomination goes against the GOP precedence following the death of Justice Scalia in February of 2016. They asserted that the outgoing president should not be permitted to nominate a new supreme court justice. Hence, he was succeeded by Justice Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017. Even with these arguments at their disposal. They instead chose to attack Justice Barrett's ruling record based on her religion. The Democratic senators also attacked her age and number of children asserting that faith, youth, and motherhood would impede her ability to serve on the court and be unbiased.

This line of questioning perpetuates a stereotype of the young, working, Catholic mother. It insinuates that we are emotional and irrational people. This attitude is not new. When I was in college for Biology, atheist students treated students of faith in my class as if their religion and science intermingled would cause cognitive dissonance. It would force them to choose one. Cafeteria conversations with staunch atheists and agnostic students produced the same. It began to seem that my atheist "friends" mission was to make me see that I am in the wrong major. Lunch conversations turned into interventions to save me from being a bible thumping weirdo. As if we Catholics are pitchfork-wielding villagers who believe the world is flat.

I know some of my readers share the view that one cannot be both Catholic and unbiased. Allow me to disabuse you of those antiquated and mistaken notions. Had I continued on that path and became a scientist instead of a writer, I would have been among other Catholic scientists like Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, and Albertus Magnus. The list is endless. There are six supreme Catholic court justices, including Amy Coney Barrett. Finally, we have President-Elect Biden.

I realize that scientists, judges, and presidents are not the same. However, the point is the same. The ability to do one's job and be a practicing Catholic are not mutually exclusive ideas. Furthermore, religion was not even a topic of discussion during the senate hearings of Justice Barrett's male counterparts. A fact that begs the questions. Where are all the feminists? Don't they march for equality, fight for the right to choose to be a parent or not? Where are all the social justice fighters? We cannot claim to be against discrimination and be okay with this. Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for equal treatment of women in and out of the courtroom. Please do not allow the gross discrimination against Amy Coney Barrett to go unnoticed in the name of her last wish because she would not have wanted that. To all the Democratic senators that questioned Amy Coney Barrett in this manner, then turned around and endorsed a Catholic, male, father, and grandfather for president, did you ask your candidate the same questions. Would his age play a role in how he governs the country? Would his grandchildren prevent him from giving his office the time necessary? What would happen with his wife and grandchildren? Will his Catholic beliefs impede his ability to perform his duties in an unbiased manner? The answer to this is "no" not one of these questions was posed to Joe Biden or any other male supreme court justices. It's almost as if she were being discriminated against on the basis of her age, sex, and religion, and as a Catholic woman, journalist, and mother, I refuse to sit by and watch our public servants violate the rights of another no matter how different our politics may be. In the words of the immortal Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I dissent.

59 views0 comments