Thursday, October 01, 2020


It looks as if our Supreme Court nominee has something to hide.
A tiny religious organization tied to Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee, sought to erase all mentions and photos of her from its website before she meets with lawmakers and faces questions at her Senate confirmation hearings.

... an analysis by the Associated Press shows that People of Praise erased numerous records from its website during the summer of 2017 that referred to Barrett and included photos of her and her family.

At the time, Barrett was on Trump’s shortlist for the high court seat that eventually went to Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Last week, when Barrett again emerged as a frontrunner for the court, more articles, blogposts and photos disappeared.

After an AP reporter emailed the group’s spokesman on Wednesday about members of Jesse Barrett’s family, his mother’s name was deleted from the primary contact for the South Bend, Indiana, branch. All issues of the organization’s magazine, Vine and Branches, were also removed.
Democrats are afraid to bring up anything to do with Barrett's religious beliefs because in 2017 the right made a scandal of some of the questioning directed at Barrett in the Senate, particularly Dianne Feinstein's assertion to Barrett that "the dogma lives loudly within you." They know they'll be attacked for anything they say about the peculiar way Barrett practices her faith -- which is unrecognizable to me as a person who was raised Catholic.

But AP is doing some digging. No, People of Praise isn't exactly Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale. But it does seem cult-like:
... as they become adults, members frequently live together in same-gender communal houses sometimes owned by the group, or they are invited to live with a family within the community....

The group’s magazine also offers insights into the group’s views on marriage, community and members’ finances. A 2007 issue discusses how the 17 single women who live together in a household, called the Sisterhood, had their paychecks direct deposited into a single bank account. One member said she had “no idea” what the amount of her paycheck was.

The pooled money was managed by one woman, who budgeted for everyone’s clothing and other expenses, including $36 weekly per person for food and basics like toilet paper. All women were expected to give 10% of their pay to People of Praise, another 1% to the South Bend branch and additional tithes to their churches.

Married couples and their children also often share multifamily homes or cluster in neighborhoods designated for “city building” by the group’s leaders, where they can easily socialize and walk to each other’s houses.

As part of spiritual meetings, members often relay divine prophecies and are encouraged to pray in tongues, where participants make vocal utterances thought to carry direct teachings and instructions from God. Those utterances are then “interpreted” by senior male leaders and relayed back to the wider group.
And things can get ugly:
Coral Anika Theill joined People of Praise’s branch in Corvallis, Oregon, in 1979, when she was a 24-year-old mother of 6-month-old twins.

“My husband at the time was very drawn to it because of the structure of the submission of women,” recounted Theill, who is now 65.

Theill, who converted to Catholicism after getting married, said in her People of Praise community women were expected to live in “total submission” not only to their husbands, but also the other male “heads” within the group.

In a book she wrote about her experience, Theill recounts that in People of Praise every consequential personal decision — whether to take a new job, buy a particular model car or choose where to live — went through the hierarchy of male leadership. Members of the group who worked outside the community had to turn over their paystubs to church leaders to confirm they were tithing correctly, she said.

Theill says her “handmaid,” to whom she was supposed to confide her innermost thoughts and emotions, then repeated what she said to the male heads, who would consult her husband on the proper correction.

“There’d be open meetings where you just have to stand for the group and they’d tell you all that was wrong with you,” Theill recounted to the AP last week. “And I would ask questions. I was a critical thinker.”

When she told her husband she wanted to wait to have more children, Theill said, he accompanied her to gynecological appointments to ensure she couldn’t get birth control.

“I was basically treated like a brood mare,” she said....
Lisa Williams said her parents joined the Minnesota branch of People of Praise in the late 1970s, when she was a fourth-grader....

“I remember my mother saying a wife could never deny sex to her husband, because it was his right and her duty,” said Williams, 56. “Sex is not for pleasure. It’s for as many babies as God chooses to give you. ... Women had to be obedient. They had to be subservient.”

Corporal punishment of children was common, Williams told the AP. When she was insufficiently obedient to her father, she was beaten with a belt and then required to kneel and ask forgiveness from both him and God, she said.

She recalled People of Praise meetings held in her parents’ living room where members prayed in tongues to cast out demons from a person writhing on the floor, rituals she described as exorcisms.

When her parents, from whom she is now estranged, decided to leave People of Praise when she was a junior in high school, she remembers the leaders said her family would be doomed to hell and they were shunned. “Nobody would talk to you,” she recalled.
I think we might see a lot of unpleasant things if we turn over this rock. But Democrats won't be allowed to do that. Other journalists need to follow up on what AP is reporting. The group may not be a stereotypical cult of patriarchy -- Barrett, obviously, is a highly successful judge -- but if you want to be approved for a lifetime position in government and you've agreed that an ideological organization can rules on many of your life choices, we deserve to know more about what that organization believes. It's not anti-Catholic to pursue this question. The vast majority of Catholics would never consider joining an organization like this.

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