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Senate confirms Trump judicial nominee after Democrats questioned the ‘dogma’ of her Catholic faith

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The Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor, to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday. The court is based in Chicago. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday in a 55-43 vote after her Catholic faith was questioned by some Democratic senators.

Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) broke with their colleagues to join Republicans in supporting Barrett’s confirmation to the bench. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court, based in Chicago, includes Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Who is Amy Barrett?

Barrett, 45, is a Notre Dame law professor, a mother of seven, and a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Her nomination to the bench was seen as controversial by pro-choice activists and some Senate Democrats, who argued her Catholic faith may sway her rulings. They pointed to some of Barrett’s writings, which include criticisms of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and the Obamacare birth control mandate.

What happened during Barrett’s hearing?

In a September Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Barrett’s nomination, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, told the nominee: “You are controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems.”

Feinstein asked Barrett if her religious beliefs would impact her rulings.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country,” Feinstein said.

Barrett said during the hearing that it is “never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions on the law.”

“I would never impose my own personal convictions on the law,” she said.

Also during the hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Barrett if she considers herself an “orthodox Catholic.”

Barrett said in response that she is “a faithful Catholic,” reiterating that her Catholic faith “would not bear on the discharge of my duties as a judge.”

The line of questioning was promptly criticized by Republican senators, as well as conservative and religious groups. The Judicial Crisis Network likened the line of questioning to hanging a “Catholics Need Not Apply” sign on the federal bench.

Barrett's confirmation

In remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said Barrett is “an eminently qualified and exceptionally bright nominee who has received praise and support across the legal profession.”

In a statement applauding Barrett’s confirmation, Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said that Barrett “will make an excellent judge and we welcome her confirmation despite unprecedented and unconstitutional attacks on her faith.”

“Catholics were alarmed by the anti-Catholic bigotry on display from Democrats during her hearings, but her confirmation is a testament to the enduring constitutional principle that there can be no religious test for office," McGuire said.

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