In 1973, we held our first National Charismatic Conference in Sydney, Australia. We had four speakers from overseas: Micheal Harper from England, Robert Frost from California, and Winkie Pratney from New Zealand and America. The fourth speaker was Dr. Kevin Ranaghan, an American religious scholar who was also a leader in the new Catholic Charismatic renewal in America. We also would invite Kevin Ranaghan in 1979 for the great Jesus 79 Conference.
Kevin Ranaghan was, at the time, a member of a Charismatic Catholic community called People of Praise, which has continued to this day. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the President’s choice for a seat on the supreme court, Amy Coney Barret, was also involved in the People of Praise community. If she is approved by the Senate, she would possibly be the first Supreme Court Justice that speaks in tongues.
WHO IS AMY CONEY BARRET?
Barret was born on January 28, 1972, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and a law degree from Notre Dame Law School. She was married to Jesse Barret, now a lawyer, in 1999. They have seven children, including two adopted children from Haiti and one special needs child with down syndrome. While in law school, she lived in a spacious colonial home owned by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan, the couple who had helped form the Catholic Charismatic community “People of Praise.” People of Praise has approximately 1,800 members, including people from several Christian denominations, though the majority are Catholic.
Her academic career has been brilliant, going back to high school, and she graduated first in her class from Law School.
In 2017, she was confirmed as a Judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. President Trump described her as having “sterling credentials” when he nominated her for the supreme court (www.whitehouse.gov).
She is described as an originalist and a textualist, and her judicial philosophy is likened to that of Antonin Scalia, her mentor, and one-time boss.
WHY IS HER ELECTION SO IMPORTANT?
There is a number of reasons, but let’s start with some major ones that evangelicals are concerned about. If she is confirmed, then there will possibly be a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. The final verdict of the Supreme Court has often depended on how Judge Roberts has voted, and, lately, he has tended to be a swing vote. As such, if Barret is appointed to the Supreme Court, the court will have moved to the right, so to speak. This, in turn, will have an impact on two major issues.
Ever since the 1973 legislation of abortion by the Supreme Court, there has been an ongoing battle to overthrow the decision. Likewise, there has been a battle to eliminate any restrictions on abortion. Hence the composition of the Supreme Court, when it is called upon to make decisions regarding abortion, is critical. It is not necessarily likely that the court will overthrow the abortion decision entirely, but it may endorse the rights of states to restrict abortion procedures.
The other big issue which the Supreme Court will be required to rule on is the question of religious freedom.
There are many aspects to the matter, but it includes the question of sincerely held religious beliefs by individuals and churches, such as related to marriage. Indeed, two Supreme Court Justices recently did an unusual thing by declaring that “those with sincerely held religious beliefs concerning marriage will find it increasingly difficult to participate in society without running afoul of the decision (of the Supreme Court) and its effect on other anti-discrimination laws” and “the unilateral move taken by the Court in 2015 set up a massive collision between the newly invented sexual liberties associated with the LGBTQ movement and religious freedom”(albertmohler.com). The appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice bears directly on how these issues will be resolved.
So, let’s look at the court and the accompanying politics.
RECENT HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT
The political battles over appointments to the Supreme Court, in my opinion, goes back to the nomination of Robert Bork, by President Ronal Reagan, back in 1987. His defeat by the Democrats followed up by the attack on Clarence Thomas, has created an intense political divide in the Senate. Past President’s nominations were accepted. Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Scalia was confirmed 98-0, and Bill Clinton’s nomination of Ginsburg was confirmed 96-3. But not so anymore, as seen in the case of Brett Kavanaugh and the character assassination that it involved. This followed the decision not to move ahead with the nomination by President Obama of Justice Merrick Garland. As a result, the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barret will probably evoke another war in the Senate.
How will the Democrats object to her?
OBJECTIONS TO BARRET
The Democrats are trying to paint Barret’s views, as stated by Senate minority leader Chuck Schuman, as being “so far out of the mainstream on health care above all, but on so many other issues as well” (rev.com). This will relate her appointment to specific issues, such as health care and abortion.
When Barret was confirmed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th circuit in 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein said: “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern” (www.independent.co.uk), referring to her strong Catholic beliefs. On a separate occasion, Barret “replied to a direct question about judges and faith from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, saying it was ‘never appropriate to impose a judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law'” (youtube.com).
It is almost as though strong personal religious beliefs (in this case, confirming to her Catholic Church teaching) is unacceptable. However, the constitution is clear about it when it states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” (U.S. Constitution. Art. VI, Sec. 3).
So get ready for another battle.
All this concerning the Supreme Court nomination is but further evidence that we are in the midst of a spiritual war here in America today. Remember what Paul wrote: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but… against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, NKJV).
The battle will be long, there will be challenges ahead, and the ultimate weapon we have to fight this war is prayer.
If ever there was a time to pray for our nation and our leaders, it is now. So let’s do it. Let’s pray.