By Jake Novak
Monday is the day President Donald Trump is promising to announce his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. But we don’t have to wait until then to learn a very important and chilling lesson about just how ugly the confirmation fight is going to be.
That’s because the nastiness is already out in full bloom in response to one of the judges who is reportedly on President Trump’s short list: Amy Coney Barrett from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
As shocking as it may seem, the attacks on Barrett have been singularly focused on her religion. Liberal opponents discussing her chances for nomination have ominously noted on numerous occasions that she is a devout Catholic with seven children. One pundit on one major cable news network noted that Barrett was “very Catholic,” and, “she graduated from Notre Dame,” as if Notre Dame were some kind of al Qaeda-sponsored madrassah in Peshawar.
Barrett must be used to this by now. Her confirmation hearing for her Appeals Court position last year was full of this kind of chilling rhetoric as well. In the one exchange that was the most despicable, both for its inappropriateness and as a terrible example of a Chillul Hashem, Jewish Senator Dianne Feinstein openly questioned Barrett’s ability to adhere to the Constitution because she told Barrett that, “the (Catholic) dogma lives loudly within you.”
I don’t know what “dogma living loudly within you” means exactly, and I doubt Feinstein could really define it either. What we do know is that in these hearings, senators rarely draw up their own questions unilaterally. Each party either agrees to ask the same pointed questions over and over, or individual senators are asked to focus on different topics. Democrats were hoping to stoke Jewish fears of an overly devout Christian judge by having Feinstein ask the question. It was a move that was as offensive as it was tone deaf. Almost every devout Jew in America is well aware that their greatest threats come from secularists and radical Muslims. Meanwhile, more common political ground is being made with Christians every day.
The other point of all of this is to sound the alarm on abortion. When all else fails, Democrats and the left in general like to frighten their base with predictions that the election of certain Republicans to office or the confirmation of certain judges will surely mean Roe v. Wade will be overturned. This particular scare tactic has been a go-to national strategy since at least the 1988 presidential election. It’s had varying success over the years, but it seems to resonate with female swing voters in years when no other major issues are taking hold.
This is despite the fact that no reasonable legal scholar from any political background really believes Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned and abortion freedoms will ever be seriously curtailed in all 50 states. It is true that several states have successfully raised the bar for legal abortions over the years and some of them are trying to impose more restrictions. But outright abolition is frankly a pipe dream that even religious leaders have come to accept. Thus, they have refocused their pro-life efforts into programs that reduce the need for abortion with more adoption services, aid for unwed mothers, etc.
But sadly, this isn’t completely about abortion. Americans from all traditional religious backgrounds who have the audacity to also want to run for office or work in the public sector are under attack. And these attacks, like just about all forms of hatred, are deeply rooted in ignorance.
First, these scaremongers fail to acknowledge that thousands of religious Christians, Jews, and Muslims serve in government jobs at all levels without a hint of religious bias in their work. The infamous case of county clerk Kim Davis from Kentucky who refused to certify gay marriages in 2015 was the exception that proved the rule.
The second aspect of ignorance that’s very prevalent here is the lack of understanding of the true meaning of our constitutional separations of church and state. That separation is mostly viewed as a way to protect our government from religious zealots. But it was also added as a way to protect religious groups from overzealous politicians who were believed likely to attack them just as the British kings had done time after time.
Liberals attacking religious judges and other civil servants and basically declaring them guilty by suspicion are the ones violating our Constitution and its religious freedoms, not the other way around. Every American Jew, especially Orthodox Jews, should be concerned about where the Democrats are going with this strategy. Make no mistake, a kippah-wearing judicial nominee or candidate from any party background would likely face the same kinds of questions in a nomination hearing or on the campaign trail.
That would be a shame that would go beyond party loyalties and political tactics. All Americans should urge their elected leaders to stop this now.
Jake Novak has been a TV news producer and editorial columnist for more than 25 years, with expertise in political, economic, religious, and cultural issues. He has produced shows at CNBC, CNN, FOX, and several local stations across the country. Novak is a graduate of the Yeshivah of Flatbush, has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University, and a master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny and watch out for future columns on 5TJT.com.