Donald Trump’s expected nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court, to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is drawing attention to a secretive Catholic “covenant community” called People of Praise that counts Barrett as a member and faces claims of adhering to a “highly authoritarian” structure.
The 48-year-old appellate court judge has said she is a “faithful Catholic” but that her religious beliefs would not “bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge”.
At the same time, the Louisiana native and Notre Dame Law graduate, a favorite among Trump’s evangelical Christian base, has said legal careers ought not to be seen as means of gaining satisfaction, prestige or money, but rather “as a means to the end of serving God”.
Interviews with experts who have studied charismatic Christian groups such as People of Praise, and with former members of the group, plus a review of the group’s own literature, reveal an organization that appears to dominate some members’ everyday lives, in which so-called “heads” – or spiritual advisers – make big life decisions, and in which members are expected to financially support one another.
Married women – such as Barrett – count their husbands as their “heads” and all members are expected to donate 5% of their income to the organization.