Why Amy Coney Barrett’s religious beliefs aren’t off limits

In particular, the Senate Judiciary Committee should be prepared to ask to examine any covenant—a solemn contract binding before God—that she signed in the course of becoming a full member of People of Praise. Doing so will protect, not erode, America’s foundational value of religious liberty.

Such a request to examine the covenant may seem unseemly to some. After all, the Constitution says that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” Catholics and scholars of Catholicism know how important this foundation of freedom is in the history of American Catholics; anti-Catholic bigotry is an old and ugly story in the United States.

But this is not a matter of anti-Catholicism or even liberal bias against conservative Catholics. Barrett’s nomination would raise an important new problem: Is there a tension between forthrightly serving as one of the final interpreters of the Constitution and swearing an oath to an organization that lacks transparency and visible structures of authority that are accountable to their members, to the Roman Catholic Church and to the wider public?