I do understand Amy Coney Barrett’s reluctance to offer opinions on issues that might come before the Supreme Court. In most cases, her hesitation is logical and justifiable. However, one question that she declined to answer did disturb me. When asked whether she thought it was wrong for the US government to separate parents and children when arrested at the border, for the purpose of discouraging future refugees from traveling here, she gave her standard demurral.
How could she, I wondered, as a mother, as a devout Roman Catholic, as a citizen who shares responsibility for our elected government’s actions, as a thinking and caring human being, not be outraged at such a thing and say unequivocally that it is wrong? I think that I may know why.
Barrett appears to view the law the way Euclid viewed geometry. You lay down some axioms, some rules for decision-making, and the answer comes out automatically. The decision-making process is logical, devoid of social, moral, and emotional context. Whether the decision results in an America that comes closer to our founding ideals or moves us further from them is irrelevant.
I believe these hearings have brought to light the fundamental conflict facing Supreme Court justices. Is the role to simply “call balls and strikes,” as Chief Justice John Roberts once stated, or is there an obligation to consider a larger view, which contemplates the underlying philosophical and historic content of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution?