Does Amy Coney Barrett Want to ‘End the Separation of Church and State’?

There is no evidence to support the claim.

A viral tweet claims that Judge Amy Coney Barrett has said her end goal is “to end separation of church and state & build a ‘Kingdom of God’ in the United States.” The tweet has also gone viral on Facebook and Instagram, where it has received 2 million views across various public repostings. 

Barrett is thought to be one of President Trump’s top choices to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, and she has earned detractors on the left for her Catholicism and for her reported association with a charismatic Christian community called the People of Praise. During Barrett’s confirmation hearings for her appointment to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein made headlines for expressing concerns over Barrett’s religious views and telling Barrett “the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern.”

Despite what’s claimed in the viral tweet, however, Barrett has not expressed an interest in ending the separation of church and state. When asked about her faith’s role in her judicial responsibilities during the 2017 confirmation hearings, Barrett stated: “It's never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law” and that neither her church affiliation or religious views “would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.” She further said that she would recuse herself if a conflict ever arose between her judicial duties and her faith.

The tweet’s mention of “build a ‘Kingdom of God’ in the United States” is an allusion to comments Barrett made in a 2006 commencement address at the University of Notre Dame Law School where Barrett was a faculty member from 2002 until 2017. Barrett told the graduating class:

“I’m just going to identify one way in which I hope that you, as graduates of Notre Dame, will fulfill the promise of being a different kind of lawyer. And that is this: that you will always keep in mind that your legal career is but a means to an end, and as Father Jenkins told you this morning, that end is building the kingdom of God. You know the same law, are charged with maintaining the same ethical standards, and will be entering the same kinds of legal jobs as your peers across the country. But if you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love, and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer.”

Barrett appears to use “building the kingdom of God” and “serving God” interchangeably, and following the above paragraph explains to the audience  what she meant by “being a different kind of lawyer, one who treats his or her career as a means to the end of serving God rather than an end in itself,” offering “three concrete suggestions” for how to do so. None of the suggestions imply a desire for theocracy. The first suggestion was to pray about career choices before making them. The second was to tithe 10 percent of one’s income to “the church, charitable causes, and to friends and acquaintances who need it” as “Tithing will help you remember that your career and the money you earn shouldn’t be directed just toward your own betterment but ought to be directed, in a tangible way, toward the common good.” And the third suggestion was for members of the graduating class to “seek out friends with whom you can share your faith.”

When asked for comment, Paul Browne, vice president of public affairs and communications at the University of Notre Dame, told The Dispatch Fact Check that “There is no record at Notre Dame of Professor Amy Barrett advocating the end of separation of church and state.”

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