Problematic Women: Will Amy Coney Barrett Face an Unconstitutional Religious Test?

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As Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett prepares for Senate hearings next week, many are wondering whether she’ll again face harsh questions about her Catholic faith.

Mary Vought, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund and wife of Russell Vought, director of the Office of Management and Budget, joins us to explain why this line of questioning is unconstitutional. Her husband, she recalls, faced similar scrutiny in his own Senate confirmation hearing.

Vought also talks about her daughter’s diagnosis with cystic fibrosis and how steps taken by the Trump administration improved her health care options.

And original co-host Kelsey Bolar, now senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum, visits to share the story of Monica Wyman, a Hispanic mother of three who may have to close her business because of California’s new employment law. Liberal lawmakers want to take this policy nationwide.

Plus, as always, we’ll crown our Problematic Woman of the Week.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.

Lauren Evans: Welcome back to the show. We have a real treat for you today. We have Mary Vought. She is a former colleague of ours at [The Heritage Foundation], mother of two beautiful little girls, and wife to [Office of Management and Budget] Director Russ Vought.

Mary, I don’t know where you find the time, but you wrote a really great article this weekend called “The Secular Left, Democrats Can’t Impose a Religious Test on Amy Coney Barrett.”

I want to start [with that] because this is a personal issue for you. Your husband faced some scrutiny over his religious beliefs in a similar confirmation hearing. Can you tell us about that and the effect that it had on your family?

Mary Vought: … Thank you, guys, both, for having me here today. I really appreciate it.

In 2017, my husband Russ Vought, he had been nominated to serve as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. During his confirmation hearing, before the Senate Budget Committee, he was personally attacked for his religious beliefs. Sen. Bernie Sanders went after him for his Christian faith.

Years prior, Russ had written an article defending his faith and basically laying out what Christians believe, that in order to have salvation, you must believe in Jesus Christ.

That did not sit well with Sen. Sanders, and so he started to attack my husband over it, and he said he wasn’t fit to serve in the position that he was being nominated for. He said, “This nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about.”

He applied an unconstitutional religious test to my husband, which, according to the Constitution, Article 6, Section 3, it’s not supposed to happen: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

We did receive a whole host of support from people from all walks of life, all parties and all states, which was great and encouraging, but it was just really unfortunate to see an elected official that had taken an oath to defend the Constitution, was then violating it and attacking my husband for his personally held beliefs.

Kelsey Bolar: Mary, this isn’t the first time that Amy Coney Barrett is facing these types of attacks. She actually already went through a Senate confirmation hearing, where she was famously told by Sen. Dianne Feinstein from California that “The dogma lives loudly within you.”

Can you tell us more about the safeguards that the Founders set up to protect against this type of religious tests and if it is unconstitutional, would you just explain, why are these attacks still allowed?

Vought: That’s a really, really good question. I think we’ve seen a lot from the left and from Democrats that they just go by their own playbook, and it’s unfortunate and a very scary precedent for the United States because, like I said, they took an oath to defend the Constitution.

It’s unconstitutional to bring this religious test to individuals that want to serve. It causes a whole host of issues for the country.

I mean, one being that it really reduces the spectrum of people that would serve in these positions because someone who has maybe a less well-known religious belief or experience, they’ll be less likely to serve in the positions, which means less diversity in government, which is something that the Democrats always seem to … say that they’re about.

Also, and this is probably the most critical thing, is that it discourages high-qualified, talented individuals from seeking government positions in the first place.

Who’s going to want to put their whole life out there to be attacked for their religious beliefs when you see what’s happening to other individuals? I mean, it’s hard. They go after your family. People went after the children that Amy Coney Barrett adopted. It’s ridiculous.

Regardless of party, as an American, as a taxpayer, you really want to have the most high-qualified, the most talented individuals representing you in the highest form of government. When the Democrats put forward these unconstitutional tests, [it] makes people like that unwilling to step up to the plate and not willing to serve the country.

Evans: Yeah. That’s such an interesting argument that you make. The more that you focus on one aspect of a judge’s life, even if it is unconstitutional to focus on that aspect of the judge’s life, you miss out on the full picture of who that judge is. Can you just unpack that a little bit more, and what should we be looking for in a judge?

Vought: Yeah, exactly. Let’s be honest. We wouldn’t be having this discussion at all, and the Democrats wouldn’t be attacking her, if she was liberal. It’s only because she is conservative that they’re going after her.

And that’s unfortunate because I think the American people want to see her qualifications and want to see that she will be impartial, that she will apply things to the Constitution, that she will read and determine on cases in an unbiased and in a fair way. … That’s what she said she would do, and that’s the oath that she says that she will uphold.

Americans want to be able to see her qualifications, how she’s taken positions in the past, that she won’t apply her faith with those decisions.

But unfortunately, they’re not getting to see any of that because we’re just seeing these attacks from the left on her. I feel like it’s a missed opportunity because the public wants to understand how she will serve as a judge and they’re not getting that because instead, the Democrats want to play politics.

Bolar: Mary, I’m curious, after what happened to your husband and what happened [with] Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, what [are you] expecting for Amy Coney Barrett?

Do you expect these same types of religious faith-based attacks? We’ve seen them go pretty low already, at least on Twitter. What can we actually expect from the senators who are a part of this confirmation hearing?

Vought: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, you already addressed it, that in 2017, when she was going through a confirmation hearing for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, she … already faced harsh questioning about her faith.

Like you said, Dianne Feinstein infamously said, “The dogma lives loudly within you. Many of us on this side have some very uncomfortable feelings about you pertaining to your faith.” Even Sen. Dick Durbin questioned whether she considered herself to be an Orthodox Catholic or not.

I think what they did to her in 2017, what they did to my husband in 2017, what we saw them so brazenly and unfairly do to Kavanaugh, I mean, I just think for them, … they don’t ever take the gloves off.

It’s always unjust and unfair, and they want to try to score some political points. Fortunately, she’s a very tough individual. I have confidence in her. … I mean, she has seven kids, for gosh sakes. I have two, and I know how hard that is. I feel like she will be able to deal and wrangle the children of the Democrat Party quite well.

Bolar: So true.

Vought: I have no fears in that, but I just think, yeah, they’re going to go after her faith. Like I said, they went after her for the adoption, which is just ridiculous.

The other thing is, where [are former Vice President] Joe Biden and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi? These are two very famous, self-proclaimed Catholics who have yet to say anything in defense of her and her faith. I just think that speaks volumes for where the Democrat Party is today.

Evans: Next week, let’s say you were senator vote and you were on the judicial committee, what sort of questions would you want to pose to Amy Coney Barrett?

Vought: Yeah, I mean, I would ask her about past cases that she ruled over, anything that I thought was in question or wasn’t clear. I think that that’s what the American people would want to hear.

I would ask her about how she plans to rule as a judge, what her philosophy is for ruling on these cases, why she wants to serve. Those are the types of questions that I would ask her and delve into more of those cases that she ruled on.

But I don’t really think we’re going to see that. I think we could see that from some of the Republicans, but I don’t think we’re going to see that from the Democrats.

I think they’re going to dig into religious groups that she was a part of or meetings that she did, or her faith or things about Catholicism, which is just unfortunate.

Like I said, the American people want to know about her and her background and what makes her qualified to serve in the highest court. I just, I don’t think we’re going to see that from the Democrats.

Bolar: One line of attack that we have seen, very prominent by Democrats, is related to the Affordable Care Act and health care, and this idea that Amy Coney Barrett could be a unique danger to Americans’ health care. We wanted to ask you about this.

It is personal if you’re willing to share, but I know you are an outspoken advocate for, specifically, children with preexisting conditions. One of your daughters has cystic fibrosis. You know the struggles that American families face when it comes to dealing with very costly health care treatments.

First off, do you think that attack about Amy Coney Barrett is fair? Second off, are you willing to share anything about your experience navigating the health care system? The changes that we’ve seen under the Trump administration in your daughter’s fight with cystic fibrosis?

Vought: Yeah. No, I don’t think that attack is fair. Everything that we’ve seen from Amy Coney Barrett’s record is that she is unbiased and she’s very just in her rulings. Again, it just seems like the Democrats are trying to throw whatever they can at her and see what sticks, which is unfortunate.

Like you said, my youngest daughter, she has a life-threatening genetic condition, cystic fibrosis.

It’s funny because you, in these spaces, you look at health care policy and tax policy and things like that one way. But when it personally affects you and when you’re on the phone for hours, dealing with insurance, trying to get them to cover a medication or dealing with doctors or pharmacists, it definitely affects you a different way.

It really makes you appreciate the idea of health care freedom and that government should get out of the way of families and individuals and their health care choices, and allow them to make the choices that best fit their family. Each family is different. Each child is different. All of their needs are different.

I think that this president, and as you said, I’ve published a lot of pieces on this, but he’s done a really great job of just standing up for the weakest among us and wanting, allowing families to choose health care options for themselves, particularly when it comes to the [Food and Drug Administration] and cutting red tape and fast-tracking some of these medications.

My daughter started this new drug this last year that really helps to correct the cystic fibrosis gene that she has. There’s one that is coming out this year that will fundamentally change her life, her life expectancy. The Washington Post called it last year a miracle drug for people with CF and they listed it as one of the top 19 things that happened in 2019. I

have no doubt that this is because of President [Donald] Trump and his leadership, by pushing the FDA to act quickly, by fast-tracking these drugs, by making sure generics are available to people who can’t afford it. I mean, we even saw this with the “Right to Try.”

Why can’t individuals who are terminally ill have the right to be able to try an experimental drug that has passed the most strenuous phase of approval with the FDA? It’s absolutely ludicrous that that law hadn’t been signed, prior to President Trump.

Just as a mother, constantly advocating for my child, I think everything that he’s doing has been so helpful and so important, particularly when you see how it affects an individual and how you just, as a mother, want to protect and encourage and just defend your child at all costs. I’m grateful to him for that.

Evans: Mary, well, that is such great news about the drug. I know your daughter is in Kelsey and I’s prayers and I hope our whole audience keeps her in their thoughts and prayers. But Mary, thank you so much for the work that you do with judges and with health care. It’s just so important, what your family sacrifices and does for our country.

Vought: Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate it.

Bolar: Yeah, thank you.

Vought: [Thanks] for having me on. That was awesome. Thank you.

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