Leader of Christian Group Amy Barrett Belonged to Once Said He'd Kick Out Members for Gay Sex

A People of Praise coordinator said people couldn’t belong if they admitted to “ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant wrongdoing,” which could include gay sex or sex between unmarried people.
October 14, 2020, 8:10pm
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

A leader of People of Praise, the Christian group in which Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett once had an active role, said two years ago that he wouldn’t let people be members if they admitted to “homosexual activity.”

Craig Lent, the coordinator of the small religious community founded in South Bend, Indiana, told the South Bend Tribune in 2018 that people couldn’t belong to the group if they admitted to any “ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant wrongdoing,” which may include gay sex or sex between unmarried people. Homosexual attraction alone isn’t sinful, he told the paper—just acting on it is.

The comments resurfaced in a Wednesday report from the Guardian.

Barrett, who is on her way to an all-but-certain confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she’ll fill the seat vacated by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is currently being grilled before the Senate Judiciary Committee on her views toward abortion, LGBTQ rights, and contraceptives.

Her ties to People of Praise have drawn scrutiny for years, although she hasn’t confirmed her membership. People of Praise has also kept mum on her involvement, with Lent saying in a 2017 New York Times interview that it’s the group’s policy not to disclose members. At the time of that interview, Barrett was a nominee for a slot on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Barrett has repeatedly said her Catholic faith won’t influence her judicial decisions, and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley sought to paint Democrats as bigoted toward her religious beliefs at the start of her confirmation hearings Monday.

But a Washington Post report revealed she’d once played an active role in People of Praise, including serving as a “handmaid” at a South Bench branch —a leadership title given to women, although the group now simply calls such people “women leaders.” Her mother was also a handmaid at a New Orleans branch that was led by her father, according to the Post.

Additionally, Barrett was on the board of trustees at Trinity Schools, a group of Christian schools established by People of Praise, from 2015 to 2017, according to the New York Times. 

Past members of the group told the Associated Press last month that women were taught to submit to the will of their husbands. In the 2019 South Bend Tribune report, a woman also said she was punished for expressing in a women’s group meeting that she was attracted to women. She was told to either never mention it again or leave People of Praise, so she left. Group members also reportedly adhere to a lifelong loyalty oath, according to the Times.

“In the People of Praise, as in the Roman Catholic Church and many Protestant churches, we follow the traditional New Testament teaching that marriage is a union of one man and one woman,” a People of Praise spokesperson said in a statement to VICE News and the Guardian regarding Lent’s 2018 comments.

Barrett also said Tuesday that she has “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.” She added that discrimination is “abhorrent.” Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat then slammed Barrett for implying sexuality was a preference, at which point Barrett apologized.