In the secretive world of the ultra-conservative People of Praise, large belt buckles are considered a sin.
‘They draw attention to the crotch region,’ a former member told DailMail.com exclusively.
Perfume and cologne are banned for similar reasons. ‘That would indicate you are trying to tempt someone with pheromones,’ the ex-member explained.
And single women are told they can only wear plain white cotton panties. ‘Certainly, no thongs —not that anyone is going to see their underwear anyway,’ the member, who asked for anonymity, said.
These are just some of the rules that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was raised under as a member of People of Praise, a mainly Roman Catholic faith group that boasts fewer than 1,700 adult members.
Barrett’s hearing to see if she should sit on the nation’s highest court gets underway on Monday. Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are pulling out all the stops to prevent her confirmation as they worry it would tip the balance of the court to the right for decades to come.
But Republicans, led by Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are determined to push her nomination through in near-record time in case President Donald Trump loses next month’s election to Joe Biden.
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was raised as a member of People of Praise, a mainly Roman Catholic faith group. The 48-year-old’s hearing to see if she should sit on the nation’s highest court gets underway on Monday
Republicans, led by Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are determined to push her nomination through in near-record time in case President Donald Trump loses next month’s election to Joe Biden
If confirmed, Barrett, 48, would replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who died last month, and give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the court.
Barrett was brought up in Metairie, Louisiana, as a member of People of Praise. Her father, Mike Coney, a former oil company lawyer, has been a leading member for decades. Her attorney-husband, Jesse, 46, whom she met while both were students at Notre Dame University, was also raised in the group.
People of Praise is headquartered in Notre Dame’s hometown, South Bend, Indiana, and many of its leading members have ties to the university. According to its website, the group has branches in 14 states as well as one in Canada and two in the Caribbean. It runs three Grades 7-through-12 Trinity Schools and one elementary school.
A former member told DailMail.com exclusively about the group and its rules. He said large belt buckles are considered a sin because they draw attention to the crotch region
Both mother-of-seven Barrett — who lives in South Bend — and People of Praise seem to have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide her affiliation. Articles mentioning her were removed from the group’s website shortly before she was to be considered for a seat on the Federal Appeals Court in 2017.
Last month, after DailyMail.com discovered a picture of two of her children at a community picnic in a 2007 issue of the group’s magazine Vine & Branches, the magazine’s entire archive was removed from the web.
Barrett’s ties to People of Praise only became public when the New York Times broke the story three weeks after her confirmation hearing, but before the committee had voted. The committee eventually split along party lines to confirm her. Three Democrats voted with the Republican majority in the vote in the full Senate.
Potential federal judges have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire for senators who are considering their nomination.
One of the questions calls for them to list ‘all professional, business, fraternal, scholarly, civic, charitable or other organizations’ that they have belonged to since high school.
Barrett listed various committees she had been on at Notre Dame as well as the conservative Federalist Society and a country club in South Bend.
She also said she had been on the board of Trinity School but neglected to mention that Trinity is run by People of Praise.
Amy Coney Barrett is seen in a family photo with siblings and parents. In 2018, Barrett’s father Mike Coney wrote an online biography of himself on his church’s website, saying he joined People of Praise because he and his wife Linda ‘felt a call to live life in a close knit Christian community…one that would help form our children into good Christians and strengthen our marriage and family’
Family photo of Amy Coney Barrett, husband Jesse Barrett, and their seven children is posted on Twitter on the day of her nomination by Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff, with caption: What an outstanding choice from the President. A great day for the White House-and great day for our country! Congratulations Judge Coney Barrett and her beautiful family. #ConfirmACB #FillThatSeat
Group spokesman Sean Connolly refused to confirm that Barrett is a member. ‘Like most religious communities, People of Praise leaves it up to its members to decide whether to publicly disclose their involvement in our community,’ he told DailyMail.com.
He did not comment on other claims made by the former People of Praise member.
Barrett has never publicly said she is a member, although she is almost certain to be asked the question during her confirmation hearing.
Her views on abortion are sure to be central in in the committee. Just last week she was forced to add details to her questionnaire revealing she signed on to an advertisement reaffirming support for the ‘commitment to right to life.’
People of Praise is strongly anti-abortion. It also rejects homosexuality. ‘Both are seen as being accepted by human law, but rejected by divine law,’ the former member explained.
‘Homosexual relationships are taboo, and any LGBTQ inclinations are seen as temptations that must be overcome through prayer. If that fails, the member must lead a life of chastity.’
Even dating is a no-no until a member has ‘prayed through their state in life’ and decided they are ready to ‘marry for the Lord.’ If they have not committed themselves to marriage, they must not date.
‘Dating before you are ready for marriage is prohibited,’ the former member said. ‘And sex outside marriage is strictly forbidden. Violating either of these two rules will result in expulsion.
‘Courtship is allowed, but only with the intended purpose of finding your partner for your marriage in the Lord.
‘If a single male member who has prayed through his state in life asks out a single female who has prayed through her state in life, she must go on at least two dates with him to see if they are compatible.’
Barrett got her law degree at Notre Dame, graduating first in her class in 1997. She’s pictured speaking at Notre Dame’s Law School commencement in 2018
But even then, there are limits as to how close the couple can get. ‘Physical intimacy between couples should only be as much as you would be willing to do if your own father is sitting there watching you,’ the former member told DailyMail.com.
Members who are committed to marriage are allowed to date more than one person at a time as the entire purpose of courtship is to find a suitable spouse.
The group is probably best known for its doctrine that women must obey their husbands in everything, and its system where all men and single women must report to their mentor — called a ‘head’. Husbands act as the ‘head’ for their wives.
The ‘heads’ have such influence they give direction on who a member should date or even marry, how to raise children, whether to take a new job and where to live.
The ex-member said he had heard of cases when the ‘head’ insisted on being involved in even the most personal parts of a member’s life.
‘Mental illnesses and addictions are perceived as demonic possessions or influences,’ he said. ‘Seeking outside therapy is allowed, but members report that their ‘heads’ sometimes ask to attend their therapy sessions.’
Until recently the female leader was known as a ‘handmaid.’ But that title was dropped after the success of the dystopian TV show The Handmaid’s Tale and the negative connotations it brought to the title.
Author Margaret Atwood, who wrote the original novel, said it was based on a group that has similar views to People of Praise.
Until recently the female leader was known as a ‘handmaid.’ But that title was dropped after the success of the dystopian TV show The Handmaid’s Tale and the negative connotations it brought to the title
A group of women dressed in the series’ iconic red cape and stiff white wimple descended on the Supreme Court on Sunday protesting Barrett’s nomination
Author Margaret Atwood (pictured), who wrote the original novel, said it was based on a group that has similar views to People of Praise
A group of women dressed in the series’ iconic red cape and stiff white wimple descended on the Supreme Court on Sunday protesting Barrett’s nomination.
In her opening statement, which was released on Sunday, Barrett’s only mention of religions were the words: ‘I believe in the power of prayer, and it has been uplifting to hear that so many people are praying for me.’
But some aren’t. Mary Belton was in 8th Grade when she was expelled from People of Praise along with her entire family when her mother came out as gay. She told the Associated Press: ‘I literally thought that my that my mom was this awful sinner, and she’s going to this literal fiery hell. And that if I supported her, that I was going there, too.
‘It’s worrisome. It’s who she is,’ Belton said of Barrett. ‘Anyone that I know, including myself, that has grown up in it and has left has had to go through a huge transformation and rewiring of your personhood, of your brain, of your soul and spirit.’
She said she felt that Barrett would not be able to set the group’s teachings aside.
Emily DeClerq Flannery, a former member of People of Praise told the South Bend Tribune in 2018 that she was spied on by members of the group and eventually expelled for dating a man without permission when she was 18.
‘It’s very much a Big Brother type of thing,’ said Flannery who was 34 at the time of the interview.
She said she was also confronted about drinking alcohol at a party and discovered her name on a list of teens, organized by how many drinks each had consumed. That list was distributed to the teens’ ‘heads.’
‘It was pretty intense,’ she said. ‘They’re very watchful of their people. They report things to your heads if they see you out doing things you’re not supposed to be doing.’
The group has strong views on gender roles. ‘There is a large emphasis on embodying masculine characteristics and mannerisms,’ the former member said. ‘Men are told they may not have piercings or long hair because it will make them look effeminate.’
Barrett and her husband Jesse are members of People of Praise, a small group that teaches that wives have to obey their husbands in everything
The three Trinity Schools teach conservative values. ‘They boast about having students read The Federalist Papers,’ the former member said.
‘Each day starts with a half-hour morning prayer led by a teacher. Each class starts with a recital of a prayer,’ he added. ‘Romantic relationships between students are strictly forbidden, and classes are mostly separated by gender.
‘Trinity notably does not have a sex health section, as they believe that it is immoral to teach people how to have sex safely outside of marriage.
‘They are ardently against any form of STI prevention or sexual health education, because infections and sexual abuse are seen as natural results of promiscuity.’
The Trinity Schools and the elementary in Shreveport, Louisiana, are open to non-members. The three Trinity schools — in Falls Church, Virginia, Eagan, Minnesota, and South Bend — and are seen as recruiting grounds for mission trips.
Before going on such a trip, missionaries are told to practice sleeping on the ground. Missionaries are instructed to ‘pray against the spirits of slumber,’ in the hope they won’t nod off while driving for hours on end.
Cara Wood, who attended the Falls Church Trinity School, said its views on sexuality were ‘deeply repressive’ She told the AP girls and boys were not allowed to touch. She said it took her years to realize she was bisexual. ‘Nothing in my environment made it possible that I could be anything but straight.’
She said People of Praise is ‘specifically attempting to influence politics and power’ in the United States.
‘This is to me why Amy Coney Barrett is so dangerous, because (People of Praise) could not have a bigger win than landing a Supreme Court justice for life.’