Biden on Judge Barrett and His Version of the Establishment Clause
Oct 16, 2020 by David Fowler
Joe Biden, Diane Feinstein, and Amy Coney Barrett—you might call them the unholy trinity of American political views on religion and the Establishment Clause. Actually, Barrett isn’t “unholy” in the same sense as the other two. As I explained a couple of weeks ago, Judge Barrett’s Catholic views and view of the U.S. Constitution do not create an “Establishment Clause problem.” Biden and Feinstein actually do. Today, though, I want to share my thoughts on what I think is the real reason behind Biden, a Catholic, saying Barrett’s Catholicism is not an Establishment Clause problem for him.
Biden Appears to be Catholic in Name Only
As I understand Catholic doctrine, grace is dispensed or administered through the sacraments, first, of Baptism, and, ongoingly, through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist. Protestants don’t believe grace is sacramental in nature or that is comes through sacramental means.
But, more importantly, in Catholicism, heaven is for those who become holy, who become sanctified by joining to the grace they are given because of their good works (what theologians would call a synergism), and, in time, it becomes just for a holy God to justify them. Thus, the Catholic view of justification and grace naturally puts a heavy emphasis on works. That being so, Biden is in trouble.
Supporting abortion, supporting transgender ideology that blurs the Creator’s male-female distinction, and blurring the male-female distinction in marriage (a Catholic sacrament) by supporting same-sex marriage can in no way be seen as good works that will help Biden merit salvation.
Yet, because Biden supports all three of these clearly articulated Catholic no-no’s, it is hard to see him as anything but Catholic in-name-only, which is why you see some priests saying he is not a Catholic in good standing.
My Interpretation of Biden’s Approach to Barrett
So, here’s what I think is going on. To keep up the illusion for Catholics who vote Democrat that he is Catholic, Biden can’t fuss about Barrett’s Catholicism. That would for sure be a “bad work,” at least politically, and maybe even one he could not work his way out of. Attacking her faith might lose him too much of the Catholic vote. Attacking an obviously devout Catholic for being Catholic is not politically smart.
I believe Barrett’s Catholicism is not an Establishment Clause problem for him because it would be a greater political problem for him for it to be so.
Biden’s Real View of the ‘Establishment Clause’
So, don’t be fooled into thinking that Biden isn’t as hostile to beliefs tied to Christianity being lived out in the public square as any other leading Democrat at the national level just because he’s playing nice with Barrett’s Catholicism. Biden will be just as hostile to the the Christian cake bakers and floral designers when it comes to same-sex weddings and to the Hobby Lobby’s of the world when it comes to abortion as those other Democrats. Extending any protection to these kinds of people or rejecting their Christianity via non-discrimination laws will be, for Biden, what the left calls an Establishment Clause problem—Christians wanting a “right to discriminate on the basis of religion” in the law.
However, I do think Biden believes in an Establishment Clause doctrine of sorts—saying whatever religious thing he needs to say to establish himself as the next president.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006.