Amy Coney Barrett urged to step down from gay rights case over religious affiliation | United States Supreme Court

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Former members of Amy Coney Barrett’s secret religious group People of Praise are asking a US Supreme Court justice to recuse themselves from an upcoming gay rights case, saying the affiliation Barrett’s continued involvement with the Christian group means she has participated in discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people.

The former members are part of a network of ‘survivors’ of the controversial charismatic group who say Barrett’s ‘lifetime and continuing’ membership of the People of Praise makes her too biased to fairly judge an upcoming case that will decide whether the Private business owners have a right to refuse services to potential clients because of their sexual orientation.

They point to Barrett’s former role on the board of directors of Trinity Schools Inc, a private group of Christian schools affiliated with People of Praise and, indeed, ban on admission to children of same-sex parents to attend school.

A faculty guide published in 2015, the year Barrett joined the board, said ‘blatant sexual immorality’ – which the guide said included ‘homosexual acts’ – had ‘no place’. in the culture of the Trinity schools”. Discriminatory policies were in place before and after Barrett joined.

The schools’ attitude, former People of Praise members said, reflects the Christian group’s staunchly anti-gay beliefs and adherence to traditional family values, including – they say – expelling or ostracizing members of the People of Praise “community” who came out as gay later in life or their gay children.

“I don’t believe that someone in their position, who is a member of this group, can put those biases aside, especially in a decision like the one to come,” said Maura Sullivan, a 46-year-old woman who has was raised in the People of Praise community in South Bend, Indiana. Sullivan identifies as bisexual and remembers coming out to her parents, who were members of the People of Praise, when she was 19.

“They decided that I had no right to be with my sister, who was 13 at the time, without them, because I could influence her in a negative way. Stuff like that. So I had a tenuous relationship with my family,” she said. “Being cut off from my family was the ultimate loss to the community.” Sullivan and her parents, who are no longer members of the religious group, have since mended their relationship, she said.

Questions about People of Praise’s attitude toward LGBTQ+ members and their families, and Trinity Schools’ policies, have resurfaced as the Supreme Court will hear oral argument Dec. 5 in the 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis case.

It focuses on a Christian website developer, Lori Smith, who claimed an anti-discrimination law in Colorado violated her right to free speech on same-sex marriage, which she says goes against her. against his religious faith. Smith said Colorado law forced her to “create posts that go against my deepest beliefs” because she cannot legally turn down same-sex couples who seek her website’s services.

Barrett testified during his confirmation hearing that his personal religious beliefs would not interfere with his abilities to be an impartial judge. Conservatives have also denounced any suggestion that his affiliation with a Christian sect could jeopardize his independence.

But some former members of the religious group say they see a big difference between judges who have faith and who are religious, and Barrett’s affiliation with the People of Praise, a tight-knit community whose members agree on a lifetime pact loyalty to each other.

Like other charismatic Christian groups established in the 1970s, People of Praise members attend regular meetings, are encouraged to live in community, practice speaking in tongues, and adhere to guidelines set by male leaders or community leaders.

“The People of Praise has deep-rooted anti-gay values ​​that negatively affect the lives of real people, including vulnerable young people. These values ​​are reflected in the daily policies of People of Praise and their schools. These are policies that are way outside the mainstream, and most Americans would be bothered by them,” said Kevin Connolly, a former People of Praise member who is the brother of the group’s chief spokesperson. Connolly has previously made public remarks about the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.

The May 2006 issue of Vine and Branches, produced by People of Praise, shows Amy Coney Barrett pictured at a People of Praise women leaders conference in 2006. Photography: AP

Barrett has never publicly acknowledged her membership in the community since becoming a judge and did not disclose it when she was confirmed in 2020. It was reported at the time that People of Praise had deleted all mentions and photos of her of its website ahead of its meetings with lawmakers.

Tom Henry, a 24-year-old former student of a Trinity school who works as a psychiatric nurse, recalled incidents during his time at Trinity in which he was discouraged from speaking openly about his sexuality.

In one instance, he was told in art class that he couldn’t draw a picture of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco gay activist and politician who was killed in 1978, because it was “too political.” “. In his service as a student ambassador, he also remembers approaching his then headmaster, Jon Balsbaugh – who is now president of Trinity Schools – and asking him about an investigation by a parent of a gay child.

“He said there was a policy, and it was basically a public position that they don’t support gay marriage or people in transition, and he said blatantly that you just tell them it’s not wouldn’t be a good place for them,” Henry said. “I just remember being so shocked because he said it blatantly.”

Neither Balsbaugh nor the People of Praise responded to a request for comment.

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