A letter released Friday by Black Pentecostal and charismatic Christian leaders has decried criticisms of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s charismatic Catholicism, ahead of her possible appointment to the Supreme Court.
“Today we stand with, and speak in defense of, Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” the Sept. 25 letter said.
“As black Christians we will not stand by in silence as our sister in the faith is persecuted for the ‘political crime’ of her beliefs,” said the letter, which was signed by numerous clergy members, scholars, and religious leaders.
Barrett, said the letter, should be judged for her record as a lawyer, law professor, and judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals, not her religious beliefs and affiliations. Barrett is a reportedly a member of the People of Praise, an ecumenical charismatic organization based in South Bend, Indiana.
The judge’s affiliation with People of Praise has come under the spotlight as President Donald Trump prepares to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. The group has been repeatedly referred to as a “cult” and has been falsely accused of inspiring the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The letter, entitled “A Black Defense of Freedom of Conscience and Amy Coney Barrett,” was published by the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies.
The letters signatories acknowledged that while they do not know if Barrett will be nominated for the Supreme Court, “we do know that attacks on her Christian beliefs and her membership in a charismatic Christian community reflect rank religious bigotry that has no legitimate place in our political debates or public life.”
“If Judge Barrett’s belief in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and in the moral convictions associated with the historic Christian faith disqualifies her for an office of public trust, then our American values of individual freedom and the right to follow one’s conscience are simply hypocrisy,” the letter said, adding that religious tests for public office are banned in the U.S. Constitution.
“Those who say that Judge Barrett’s charismatic Christian faith–or ours–is a threat to the Constitution are themselves enemies of the Constitution. They are enemies of the freedom of the individual,” the signatories added.
“Such behavior cannot be tolerated.”
Rev. Eugene Rivers III, director of The Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies and himself a Pentecostal minister, told CNA that “There’s an increasingly hostile environment for people of faith.”
“One of the cases that forced us to act was the disgraceful treatment of Professor Barrett. It was the disgraceful, unjust, unfair treatment of our sister of faith,” Rivers added.
“We felt it was absolutely essential, that as men of faith–or particularly as Black men of faith–that we needed to vigorously stand up and philosophically and politically defend the right of conscience and religion that’s part of our Constitutional order.”
Black men, said Rivers, are “acutely sensitive” to the persecution of the innocent.
“Few people could be more innocent and generous,” said Rivers.
“This loving mother, devoted wife, committed Christian. And so, as men, we felt that we were morally obligated to defend our sister.”