Anyone watching CNN Thursday night might have noticed something when they aired a report profiling the three judges reportedly being considered as the finalists for President Donald Trump‘s nomination to the Supreme Court. When it came to the third and last judge in the segment–Judge Amy Coney Barrett— the description didn’t begin with her serving on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, how she once clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, or anything about her judicial philosophy.
Before getting to any of that, the voiceover stated that Barrett “is 46 and has 7 children.” The profiles of the other reported finalists, Judge Raymond Kethledge and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, made no mention of their families.
There are a number of ways to interpret this. The obvious, is that it’s a sexist move, putting someone’s relevant work experience below their family life just because she’s a woman. If that’s the reasoning behind it, it may be more subconscious than anything else, but if you keep watching, it seems like there’s something else going on.
Most of the profile on Barrett–just like most coverage of her in general these days–focuses on her religion. Democrats have been painting Barrett as some sort of religious extremist who can’t be trusted to uphold the laws of the United States, particularly when it comes to abortion. The focus, not just on Barrett’s children, but how many there are of them, comes off more as a subtle support for this, as large families are often associated with those of strong religious devotion.
Barrett has written in the past that judges should not shape their legal decisions to fit with their religious beliefs, and said in her confirmation hearing when she was nominated for her current role that she would not challenge Roe v. Wade. Nevertheless, reports have focused on her religious practices.
Blowing Barrett’s religion even further out of proportion, CNN makes a point to say that Barrett “believes in prophecy,” which would describe people who even moderately observe any of the major Abrahamic religions. It also quotes a speech where she said, “your legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God.” Now, that might be concerning if it was in the middle of a Constitutional Law class, but it was part of an address to law school graduates at Notre Dame, a Catholic school.
Barrett isn’t the only one whose religion was mentioned. In CNN’s description of Ketheledge, they made a point to say that he “is the only Evangelical Christian” among the three finalists. This was mentioned before any of Ketheldge’s career accomplishments or judicial philosophies.
It’s nothing new for religious people to serve in high roles in the United States government, and people like Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman prove that such religious values don’t preclude people from having Democratic political leanings.
CNN, and those making the ultimate decision on whether to confirm Trump’s nominee, can and should delve into a potential Supreme Court justice’s legal reasoning and constitutional philosophy, and challenge them on it where necessary. Religion, however, should stay out of the discussion.
[Image via CNN screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.