Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett is affiliated with a rather obscure Catholic group People of Praise, which is a subject sure to come up during senate confirmation hearings that start today, especially because of the organization’s ultraconservative views on the role of women in society. Some say that scrutinizing Barrett’s beliefs and her relationship to People of Praise is anti-religious bigotry.
People of Praise is not a religion or a church. It was founded in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana, part of a Catholic charismatic movement that resembles Pentecostalism. Oddly, Pentecostalism mostly remains, a Protestant movement. The term ”Pentecostal” is derived from ”Pentecost”, the event that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, and the speaking in “foreign” tongues and divine healing as described in the Bible in Acts of the Apostles.
People of Praise now has 22 branches and around 2000 members across North America.
Barrett has not disclosed or even acknowledged her connection to People of Praise. The group now is trying to hide her affiliation by deleting documents that include her from its website. Her name is in an old directory listing her as being one of the organization’s ”handmaids”. She was a trustee of the group’s Trinity Schools, and as law student, she lived in a house owned by one of the organization’s founders.
Among People of Praise’s teachings are that men are divinely ordained as the head of both the family and faith, and it is the duty of wives to submit to them. Some former members have said that group leaders decide who can date who.
People of Praise emphasizes community and encourages members to live in the same neighborhoods. Single people live with families in the community or together in same-gender communal households, where they pool resources and turn their paychecks over to be shared. Sort of like communism. People who join must sign a ”covenant”.
The group is led by men, who instruct members to run their families according to their interpretation of Biblical views of gender roles. Women are homemakers; they are there to support their husbands. Females are instructed by elders not to emasculate male peers by getting the better of them in conversation. People of Praise magazine, Vine & Branches, had an article which said to women members:
“Make it a joy for him to head you. It is important for you to verbalize your commitment to submission. Tell him what you think about things, make your input, but let him make the decisions, and support them once they are made.“
Confirmation of Barrett will certainly mean an attack on LGBTQ rights and could lead to allowing business, government contractors and even government employees to treat LGBTQ people as second-class citizens. Taxpayer-funded emergency shelters could refuse to place married same-sex couples in family housing, and adoption and foster care agencies could turn their backs on youths in need rather than certify the homes of same-sex couples. And they could gut access to affordable health care for a community that already faces disproportionate obstacles to care. The current administration, religious fanatics and anti-equality crazies support each of these outcomes.
On Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark decision that guaranteed Marriage Equality, Barrett said that the decision was not SCOTUS explicitly ruling in favor of or against same-sex marriage, but rather ruling whether states had the right to decide if that right was guaranteed. She defended Chief Justice John Roberts‘ dissent, which said that the constitution doesn’t speak to the question and it isn’t the court’s place to decide, but that people have the right to lobby in state legislatures to make Marriage Equality a law within each state.
She also said of Title IX of the Civil Rights act, which prevents educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex, that the use of male and female bathrooms by people who identify as a different sex than their physiological one is a “huge shift” from the prior interpretations of that statute that said separating bathrooms, locker rooms and showers on the basis of sex is acceptable.
Earlier this month, two of the most conservative Supreme Court justices, Clarence ”Coke Can” Thomas and Samuel Alito, released a four-page statement opposing the Obergefell v. Hodges decision following the Supreme Court’s rejection of an appeal by former Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis who denied marriage licenses to a same-sex couple after Obergefell.
If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Barett will weigh in on the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case which questions whether private child welfare agencies that receive taxpayer money can refuse to work with same-sex couples.
In a crazy coincidence, People of Praise are a part of my daily existence. Just a few yards away from my house is a charter school in buildings that were at one time Queen of Peace parish church and school. Built in 1965 in a fine example of mid-century Brutalism, the church building was converted to De La Salle North Catholic High School in 2003. The Tree of Life mosaic is composed of three different kinds of clay and light and dark stones was created by Raymond Grimm with James Hosey as architect.
Portland’s archdiocese was the first Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy in 2004 over sex abuse allegations after settling more than 100 cases. By the time the bankruptcy was complete three years later, the archdiocese had settled over 300 claims and paid out nearly $90 million in claims and attorney fees. Among the divestitures was the Queen of Peace buildings and land, which the church sold to, you guessed it, People of Praise. The paid $1.933 million for it. The former rectory is now multi-family housing for People of Praise members. The organization also began purchasing houses and properties around the neighborhood for its officers and members. The former church building is now a non-religious charter school that started in 2008. They pay market rate for their lease. People of Praise pay less than $3000 a year in property tax.
People of Praise’s Trinity Schools views on sexuality were deeply repressive. Girls and Boys were not allowed to hug or touch. Students are encouraged to eventually take positions of power in the community, such as doctors and lawyers. Trinity Schools boast of high SAT scores, and national awards. They are attempting to influence politics and power in the USA, which is why Amy Coney Barrett is so dangerous. People of Praise could not have a bigger win than landing a Supreme Court justice for life.
Summer 2020, my neighborhood has been a center for Black Lives Matter protests because the Portland Police Association (the police union) headquarters is located just three blocks away from my house. Crazy, but People of Praise bought that building in 2006 for $286,000 and sold to the police union in 2014 for $625,000. So, for me, there is direct line from People of Praise and Portland Police.
Since Portland protests against police brutality began in May, Portland Police Association president Daryl Turner has labeled protester as rioters and looters, calling for criminal charges against them. He has called out Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt for being too soft on protesters and blamed increasing gun violence on the decision in June to defund the bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team.
Bishop Peter Smith of the Diocese of Portland is a member of People of Praise.
So far, Republicans are the only ones to raise Barrett’s faith during the confirmation hearings. Anti-Right to Choose Senator Ben Sasse (Nebraska) referenced Barrett’s membership in People of Praise.