Amy Coney Barrett Is Not an Ideal Christian Jurist

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett presents herself as bringing Christian values to the court, even though her record paints a very different portrait



Amy Coney Barrett speaks at her nomination in front of the White House. Despite her Catholic faith, Barrett’s conservative interpretation of the law will do more to harm Catholic social teachings than help them.


The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sent shockwaves across the nation, but the surprises only escalated when the Trump administration nominated Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett. While many believe that Barrett’s nomination is the opportunity for Christian dogma to live loudly in the Supreme Court, her conservative agenda is only using the veneer of Christianity to hide deeply un-Christian politics. 

From abortion rights to religious liberty statues, a Barrett judgeship would have the potential to justify all the years of Republican-dominated courts failing to overturn liberal decisions.

This statement is not referring to Barrett’s piety or the practices of the People of Praise organization of which she is a member. Barrett can potentially fulfill the dreams of every religious rightwinger of the last four decades, but her tenure would be polluted by a ruthless jurisprudence and come at a cost to Christian teachings. 

Barrett’s record on workers’ rights flies in the face of any orthodox interpretation of church teaching. While every pope since Leo XIII has argued for a just wage, Barrett ruled against Grubhub employees in a court case where the court decided that gig-economy contractors are not entitled to a minimum wage or other benefits. 

The straw-grasping is astounding for someone who is supposedly guided by the resolute principles of her faith.

In a 2018 decision, Barrett took the side of a mortgage lending company after employees attempted to conduct lawsuits regarding wages and work hour violations. Considering that Barrett’s faith lists the deprivation of just wages from workers as a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance, this cannot be overlooked. 

Another worrying trend in Barrett’s rulings is her inane and cruel handling of immigration. When the Seventh Circuit court upheld a lower court’s decision that blocked enforcement of the Trump administration’s public charge rule, a policy meant to decrease low-income immigration. Barrett dissented from the majority opinion, arguing that the court should defer to the government’s interpretation of the law.

In a more egregious example, Barrett ruled against Rafael Giovanni Herrera-Garcia’s appeal for a U.S. visa, who feared being tortured if he was deported to El Salvador. Barrett affirmed the conclusion that “Herrera-Garcia had not shown that he, specifically, would be in danger.”

Considering that over a hundred Salvadorans were killed following deportation since 2013, Barrett’s use of technicalities to rule against Herrera-Garcia can be considered that much more heartless. While Pope Francis and American bishops have focused on combating the current American government’s oppression of refugees and immigrants, Barrett has been complicit in the enactment and enforcement of these policies.

The picture doesn’t get any prettier when looking at hot-button issues. With the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s fate before the court, Barrett will be a pivotal vote regarding its constitutionality if she is confirmed. In the past, Barrett has made several statements that criticized the court’s decision to uphold the ACA, a worrying sign that a Barrett judgeship could jeopardize the health insurance of millions during a pandemic. The church has called for governments to enshrine universal and accessible health care as a right. 

At a time when American society and the church are confronting systemic racism, Barrett concurred with a ruling that was in favor of police officers who had forcibly detained a Black man. The court justified the ruling due to the “conspicuous bulge” in the man’s pants pocket, as well as the fact the encounter occurred in a “high-crime area.” The straw-grasping is astounding for someone who is supposedly guided by the resolute principles of her faith.

Even on access to abortion, the most important issue for Barrett’s supporters, Barrett has not committed to a position on its legality. For 40 years, the Republican Party has lulled conservative Christians to its side with promises of overturning Roe v. Wade, only for each attempt to fizzle out. Charles Camosy, professor of theology at Fordham, noted how in this year’s June Medical Services case only one justice, Clarence Thomas, openly questioned the 1973 precedent. 

Furthermore, Barrett herself isn’t as rock-solid on the issue as her image would suggest. Indeed, in a 2013 lecture, Barrett stated that it would be unlikely that Roe would be overturned, although the court could allow for some milder restrictions to stand. Have generations of pro-life activists elected countless Republicans for the mere chance of some restrictions? 

In the most likely event, Barrett wouldn’t be the bulwark of Christian values her marketing entails but would instead be another proponent of a tired and merciless legal theory. Her history shows that when the lives of immigrants, workers or the unborn are in her hands, she will rule on the side of technicality and ideology over justice. The lives of all Americans, from the womb to the tomb, will find little solace in the coming judicial hegemony.