Below is my column in the New York Post on the campaign to get Justice Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis due to her religion. The demand is entirely without merit but it is illustrative of the unrelenting and unhinged attacks on this distinguished jurist. Previously, Democratic senators demanded Barrett’s recusal from pending cases on similarly frivolous grounds. Barrett remains the obsession for many on the left from campaigns to ban her books to protests at her home. She has done nothing to warrant such continual and personal attacks.
Here is the column:
Justice Amy Coney Barrett is facing increasing calls to recuse herself from a major Supreme Court case due to her religion. These absurd demands say less about the ethics of Barrett than the bias of her critics, who have waged an unrelenting and vicious campaign against the jurist and her family.
At issue is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis’ Dec. 5 argument. Even before the court granted review, I noted it could be one of the most important free-speech cases in history. It involves a web designer who declines jobs for same-sex marriages over her religious beliefs.
Liberal academics and pundits have decried Barrett’s participation in the case because she has been part of the Christian group People of Praise, which holds traditional views of marriage and homosexuality. The media are quoting former members calling themselves “survivors” saying the group holds views that make it impossible for her to judge the case fairly.
Impossible, that is, if Barrett is willing to discard every principle of legal and judicial integrity she has maintained her entire career.
Justices routinely rule for individuals or groups that they find objectionable and even sinful. That is what jurists do when they take an oath requiring blind and equal justice.
While some have called for all the conservative justices to recuse themselves, the focus has been on Barrett. A petition with thousands of signatures declares, “Barett’s [sic] extremist religious views should have disqualified her from serving on the Supreme Court at all; but when it comes to this case in particular, it is obvious that she is far too biased to issue an impartial ruling and must recuse herself.”
Commentator Lindy Li objected, “Amy Coney Barrett refuses to recuse herself from an LGBT case, despite being paid 5 times by the anti-LGBT group involved,” referring to the legal nonprofit representing the petitioner. “Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself from a Harvard case cuz she sits on its Board of Overseers. Barrett is a religious extremist, Jackson is a true Justice.”
The problem is that it’s called “the Harvard case” because Harvard is an actual party to the case, and the court is reviewing admission policies including the period on which Jackson sat on the board.
The reference to the Harvard case is also telling because many liberal academics and commentators insisted Jackson did not have to recuse herself despite what some of us saw as an obvious conflict of interest: She sat on a board that advises on admissions and oversees the Harvard’s operations. To her credit, Jackson recused herself.
This is different. Neither Barrett nor People of Praise has a connection to the case. Indeed, this is not even a religion-clause case. When the case came up from the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, challengers raised claims under both the First Amendment’s religion and free-speech clauses. As some of us had hoped, the court accepted only the free-speech claim for review.
Notably, those comparing Barrett with Jackson ignore that the latter has similar religious connections in her background. Jackson sat on the Montrose Christian School board in Rockville, Md. The school proclaimed “uncompromisingly” the gift of gender is part of the goodness of God’s creation,” Christians must oppose “all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography,” marriage is the “uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment” and Christians should “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”
Yet those same individuals aren’t calling for Jackson’s recusal (which would be equally absurd). Indeed, the board position was a nonissue at Jackson’s confirmation.
The double standard is nothing new for Barrett and her family, who have faced repeated protests at their home, including demonstrations that must upset her young children. Protesters have distributed information on where her kids attend school. And many on the left want to block Barrett from giving her views publicly: Writers and editors are seeking to ban books by the jurist.
Some of the vilest abuse came in her confirmation as Democratic members and activists focused on her religion. Even her multiracial family was not spared offensive and racist attacks. Ibram X. Kendi, the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, accused Barrett of acting like a “white colonizer” in adopting two Haitian children and suggested the kids were little more than props for their ambitious mother.
The media have reacted to these racist attacks, the calls for banning her book and the doxxing of her children with little more than a shrug when the target is a conservative jurist. After all, they insist, she is the extremist.
No, Justice Barrett will not recuse herself, and the Supreme Court is all the stronger for it.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and professor at George Washington University Law School.