Jay Ambrose: Hey, get those Roman Catholics

Sen. Dianne Feinstein recently made it clear she is an anti-religious bigot who does not think someone who is a devout Roman Catholic ought to be a federal court judge. Just maybe, leftist extremists should not be senators.

Feinstein, to be sure, does not always fit snugly into the leftist camp, but there are leftist warps in the Californian’s thinking. Such was obvious in a congressional hearing evaluating the credentials of Amy Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor nominated for the judgeship by President Donald Trump. Feinstein is opposed to her, fearing that, as a judge, she would adhere to tenets of her faith that contradict laws.

The evidence? As a Wall Street Journal editorial and other sources point out, it was a document showing she would do no such thing.

As a law clerk, Barrett and a co-author wrote an article about judges facing situations in which their religious conscience would not permit them to do what the law requires. The answer, the two said, was for the judges to recuse themselves. But Barrett has also made it clear she is truly of the faith, and Feinstein can just not abide this. Deeply religious people are given to insistence on dogmas that are counter to what large numbers have fought to achieve for years, she said.

One thing that strikes me most immediately about this kind of talk, echoed by other Democratic senators at the hearing, is that that all kinds of secular moral convictions are held just as strongly as religious moral beliefs. Do they have a greater claim to veracity? No. A greater claim to goodness? No.

Often doing more damage than good, not a few on the left see liberty-shrinking coercion as a suitable means of getting to utopian imaginings. Then there’s utilitarian quantification to make the most people happy when it often does no such thing while rejecting fundamental principles.

The truth is that, in this peculiar age in which we live, it is socially impermissible in the minds of the politically correct to be even undetectably offensive to just about any group but white males and Christians. Especially when the topic of Catholicism comes up, get ready for someone like comedian Bill Mahr seeking laughs by hatefully treating an ages-old, life-enriching faith standing for love as something smaller than he is.

People in public office should be guided by moral understandings along with detailed knowledge and, one can hope, wisdom. But we obviously do not want those moral convictions serving as a substitute for rule of law. We do not want, for instance, what we often get: liberal justices on the Supreme Court inventing new constitutional meanings. At the same time, it is contrary to just about everything this country stands for to have some kind of religious test for public office, including when the test is itself devised in accordance with secular dogmas.

At a time when religion is under assault by the so-called New Atheists and the number of churchgoers is dwindling, it might also be appropriate to point out that the Judeo-Christian tradition is what more than anything gave the West justice, liberty, the underlying morality of even many atheists, a sense of community, the maintenance of civilization and the establishment of universities.

Horrible things have been done in the name of the faith just as they have been done in the name of just about any other institution you can name, but that does not mean prejudices should be left standing.

I am not a Catholic, was raised a Protestant and can in fact recall bumping into anti-Catholic bigotry when I was a teenager and John F. Kennedy was running for president. I actually heard family friends rant about Catholics hiding guns in the basements of churches to help them take over the country, something that even then struck me as absurd. Kennedy, a Catholic, got elected despite all that. I am hoping Amy Barrett gets to be a federal judge.

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By Jay Ambrose

Tribune News Service

Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at [email protected].