Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D., Calif.) attack on the faith of a Catholic judicial nominee has stoked opposition from conservative activists.
The Judicial Crisis Network has made a six-figure ad buy taking aim at Feinstein and Sen. Dick Durbin's (D., Ill.) questioning of Notre Dame law school professor Amy Barrett regarding her Catholic faith. The ad, which is called Catholics Need Not Apply, focuses on Durbin asking Barrett, a married mother of seven, if she considered herself an "orthodox Catholic" and Feinstein objecting to her nomination by saying, "the dogma lives loudly within you."
The JCN says both lines of questioning reflect anti-Catholic bigotry.
"Liberal Democrats attacking Amy Coney Barrett, a judicial nominee with sterling credentials and bipartisan support just for being Catholic," the ad says. "The message from Senate Democrats: Catholics need not apply."
Barrett has received a majority "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association. The JCN ad says that opposition to her nomination to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is grounded solely on a religious test, which the Constitution forbids. Barrett responded to questions about her faith and how it might influence her decisions on matters such as abortion and the death penalty—both of which the Catholic Church opposes—by saying that she would recuse herself if her personal beliefs conflicted with her approach to the law. Feinstein responded by saying she did not trust Barrett's position.
"Tell the Democrats: stop the hypocrisy, end the religious tests, don't attack Catholics for being Catholic," the ad says.
JCN chief counsel and policy director Carrie Severino, a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, said the line of questioning used by the Democrats represented "rank bigotry" and was "clearly coordinated" in advance. Severino said Feinstein's approach made her "the poster child of anti-Catholic bigotry." The questioning reflected a religious test for office.
"It is really shocking to have Democratic senators who are so tone deaf and unaware that there are millions of Americans who share these beliefs and are Constitutionally illiterate," she said. "What they are concerned about is a judge's faith. It's supremely ironic to see Democrats attacking a judicial nominee for being anti-death penalty."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) had also asked about Barrett's faith in relation to the death penalty. Neither rejected her insistence that her faith would not prejudice her interpretation of the law, which Severino said illustrates the difference between their approach and that of Durbin and Feinstein.
"It's one thing to ask a nominee to explain what her position is, but what Feinstein and Durbin did was, despite her repeated assurances and her stated position, they said, ‘I don't believe you,'" she said.
Neither Feinstein nor Durbin responded to request for comment