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Concerns Arise That Trump's Leading Supreme Court Contender Is Member of a 'Religious Cult'

Amy Coney Barrett was slammed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein during a previous confirmation hearing, saying she was concerned 'that the dogma lives loudly within you'

This 2017 photo provided by the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Ind., shows Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett is on President Donald Trump's list of potential Supreme Court Justice candidates to fill the spot vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy
University of Notre Dame Law School via AP

U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken with seven potential candidates and is set to announce his Supreme Court pick on Monday – with Judge Amy Coney Barrett increasingly receiving media attention as one of the more controversial options.

Barrett would be the youngest justice on the Supreme Court, giving her decades of influence over the U.S.' top legal body. She is under extra scrutiny for her membership of a religious group called People of Praise.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, known for his religious zeal, has met with some of the contenders for the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, The Associated Press has reported.

Top contenders include federal appeals judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar and Barrett – all of whom spoke with Trump on Monday.

Barrett, 46 and a mother of seven, was a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and a longtime Notre Dame Law School professor. At her confirmation hearing last fall to become an appellate court judge, Democrats peppered Barrett on whether her Roman Catholic faith would interfere with her work. They cited a 1998 paper in which Barrett argued that Catholic judges might need to recuse themselves in death penalty cases.

Last September, the New York Times wrote a profile of Barrett that included a look at her membership in a small Christian (mostly Catholic) group called People of Praise – a topic that never came up at her confirmation hearing.

The profile does not use the word cult to describe the group, but according to Slate, it's "easy to see why some of its details alarmed many readers."

Ruth Graham writes in Slate that "People of Praise members are said to be accountable to a same-sex adviser, called a 'head' for men and (until recently) a 'handmaiden' for women, who gives input on a wide variety of personal decisions. They swear 'a lifelong oath of loyalty' to the group."

During the confirmation hearing, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California told Barrett that dogma and law are two different things and she was concerned “that the dogma lives loudly within you.”

Barrett was eventually confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, after telling senators that her views had since broadened. She said it was never permissible for a judge to “follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires.”

Feinstein rejected any suggestion that she was biased against Catholics, saying she was a product of Catholic schools and had spent more time in a church than she has in a synagogue. She then recounted that some 60 groups wrote her in opposition to Barrett’s confirmation. She said their main concern was whether Barrett would follow the law if she were to become a judge.