Senator Lankford Defends Amy Coney Barrett and Religious Freedom on the Senate Floor
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WASHINGTON, DC –Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor in support of the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In September during her nomination hearing, Barrett was challenged by Democrat Senators to explain her faith, and they suggested she could not be an impartial judge, if confirmed, because of her level of devotion to her faith.
Yesterday, Lankford joined his Senate Republican colleagues and members of the religious liberty community in a press conference to defend the foundational principle—the right to the free exercise of religion. The Senate is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s nomination this week.
On the problem with the religious test:
She seems to be imminently qualified. What seems to be the issue? Interestingly enough, she has faced a very odd set of questions during the confirmation process. Questions not about her legal scholarship, not about her qualifications, but oddly enough about her Catholic faith… It was whether her Catholic faith would get in the way of her being a good judge. … It’s odd for us as Americans because this seems to be an issue that we resolved 200-plus years ago. We resolved it in Article VI of the Constitution where it says there’s no religious test for any officer of the United States. There’s no evaluation to be a certain faith or if you have a certain faith to be able to take that faith off if you’re going to be able to serve in the United States. Our Constitutional protection is the free exercise of your religion. Not just that you can have a faith, but you can both have a faith and live your faith according to your own principles. .. This should be a settled issue for us, not a decisive one. We are a diverse nation—diverse in backgrounds, perspectives, attitudes, and yes, diverse in faith.
On explaining the difference between freedom of worship and the free exercise of religion:
That’s consistent with who we are as Americans, that we allow any individual to be able to have a faith and to be able to live their faith both in their private life and public life. Or to be able to have no faith at all if they choose to have no faith at all. That’s up to the decision of each American. But we don’t ask individuals, as has been asked of this individual, whether her faith will be the big issue and whether the faith becomes a question of whether you’re capable to serve other fellow Americans. What’s so dangerous, quite frankly, about her Catholic faith and Christian beliefs? Of her being a judge? Are people afraid that she will actually live out what the book of Proverb says: ‘To speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, speak for the rights for all who are destitute, speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and the needy.’ Is that Is that everyone is afraid that she will live out that biblical principle?
On comparison to JFK’s religious test in 1960’s:
We hit a moment like this in the 1960’s, and I thought we had moved past it. There was a senator at that time running to be president of the United States. We know him as John Kennedy. Senator Kennedy was speaking to a group of ministers in Houston, Texas in the 1960’s, and he had to stand before them and explain his Catholic faith because, quite frankly, there was this buzz. Could someone be a Catholic and be president? What would that be? Would you have difficulties with it? Quite frankly, the questions that came up of Professor Barrett were strikingly similar to the questions that were asked of Senator Kennedy when he was running to be President of the United States… He said, ‘If I should lose on the real issues in the presidential race, I shall return to my seat in the Senate satisfied that I tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole of the nation that is the loser in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history and in the eyes of our own people.’