The president of the University of Notre Dame has rebuked California Sen. Dianne Feinstein for a “chilling” line of questioning she posed to a professor at the Catholic university during a judicial confirmation hearing this week.
Rev. John I. Jenkins wrote a letter to Feinstein on Saturday taking her to task for questions she asked of Amy Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor who has been nominated by President Trump to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for a district encompassing Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
During the hearing, Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, asked Barrett about the religious themes of her past scholarly writings and speeches.
“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein told Barrett. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” (RELATED: Nominee’s Religious Faith Dominates Senate Judiciary Hearing)
Barrett responded: “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”
Feinstein was immediately criticized, largely by conservatives and Catholic groups, for suggesting that a practicing Catholic would be unfit to serve as a federal judge. Jenkins concurred in his statement on Saturday.
“It is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge,” he wrote in the letter.
“I ask you and your colleagues to respect those in whom ‘dogma lives loudly’ — which is a condition we call faith. For the attempt to live such faith while one upholds the law should command respect, not evoke concern,” Jenkins added.
Feinstein was not the only Democrat on the Judiciary Committee to question Barrett’s faith.
“Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin asked.
“If you’re asking whether I’m a faithful Catholic, I am, although I would stress that my own personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge,” Barrett responded.
In his letter, Jenkins expressed confidence in Barrett’s “competence and character.”
“I am not a legal scholar, but I have heard no one seriously challenge her impeccable legal credentials,” he wrote.
“Your concern, as you expressed it, is that ‘dogma lives loudly in [Professor Barrett], and that is a concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country,’” Jenkins continued.
“I am one in whose heart ‘dogma lives loudly,’ as it has for centuries in the lives of many Americans, some of whom have given their lives in service to this nation. Indeed, it lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology.”
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