How Amy Coney Barrett’s Religious Group Helped Shape a City

Outside of South Bend, however, it’s hard to understand how deeply this group is integrated into the local community. Although the group has only a few thousand local members and is reluctant to organize, its influence and presence in the city is significant. That influence and its opposition to liberal changes in the broader culture are likely to emerge as issues in their Supreme Court nomination hearings, which are expected to begin October 12th.

People of Praise includes several prominent local families, including realtors and local financial advisors, who act as a kind of professional network for families in the group, providing significant social capital to their members. In South Bend’s mayoral elections, it is known that campaigns aim to attract People of Praise as a constituency because they live close together in several neighborhoods. The group runs Trinity School in Greenlawn, a private middle and high school that some consider to be the best – and most conservative – school in South Bend. Families from Notre Dame and other countries not affiliated with the group pay $ 14,000 to attend grades 9-12 and $ 13,000 for grades 6 through 8. Barrett served on the board between 2015 and 2017 , and her husband, Jesse, a former US assistant attorney who is now a partner in a law firm, advised the school’s nationally recognized mock trials team.

As South Bend’s industry declined with the closure of automaker Studebaker in 1963, People of Praise has grown to become one of the city’s most famous institutions. The group’s original home was the 233-room, nine-story Hotel LaSalle, a 1920s Georgian revival building, one of the most iconic buildings in downtown South Bend. When the group moved into the building in 1975 after it was purchased by Charismatic Renewal Services, Inc. As a closely related nonprofit organization, it cleared one floor to serve as a community day care center and used a former ballroom for its gatherings where members spoke in tongues and practiced healing. Some members lived there.

Trinity School is located in a sprawling mansion on Sylvan property to the east of the city that used to belong to the Studebaker family, whose factory once employed 30,000 workers. The group’s main meeting room, not listed on Google Maps, is a former bowling alley and indoor soccer complex, 10 minutes from downtown, near the Trinity sports fields.

As the members of the group expanded their families and grew many in the community, they dispersed across the suburbs and business communities of South Bend. “They are involved in all kinds of professional lives, whether it be real estate or law or whatever,” said Ryan Dvorak, a South Bend-based Democratic representative for Indiana who ran for mayor in 2011 when I named him asked the local presence of the group.

Thursday evening When a cool breeze blew over town and national network correspondents staked the Barrett’s house in their rental car, I joined a 25-year-old former People of Praise member to tour their old turf, including Trinity, where they were participated. and the group’s worship center. (This former member, who worked for businessman Democrat Mel Hall’s congressional campaign in 2018, asked for anonymity for her family’s privacy. She grew up in People of Praise but said that after several decades of membership, they became disaffected with the group, after moving from Maryland to South Bend at a young age to be closer to her peers.)

The headquarters is a modest and unmarked two-story brick building east of downtown, north of the school on the same campus. As we were walking across the green grounds, a man who appeared to be in his twenties ran up to us and asked for identification. My guide recognized him as a former classmate. “I thought you were a reporter,” he said, out of breath. “They called us a ton. It wasn’t fun. They called us cult. It’s like,“ Well, I don’t know what to tell you, but we’re not. ”He sighed. We left.

The Barrett’s five oldest children attended Trinity School, founded in 1981. Trinity operates two other private schools in Eagan, Minnesota and Falls Church, Virginia. (Although the establishment was founded by People of Praise, now Trinity Schools, Inc. and the People of Praise are separate 501 (c) (3) companies.) Group membership is not required to work there; Faculty members must, however, be Christian and “agree to the principles of the Nicene Creed in good faith,” according to the cultural statement of the Trinity.

The school publishes a “Cultural statement“Express your views on social issues. It articulates a clear, conservative Christian set of values, including discouraging sex before marriage and warning students who experience same-sex attraction from “premature interpretation”[ing] any particular emotional experience as identity-determining. “It also appears to be contrary to American law when Barrett served on the board: A version of the 2018-19 school year statement provided to POLITICO by an alum’s parents says,” The only place for People Sexual activity is marriage, where marriage is a legal and committed relationship between a man and a woman. “Homosexual acts” are meant to be “contrary to Scripture”. A spokesman for the school said the language had changed the 2018-2019 school year, meaning it would have happened during Barrett’s tenure as a board member from 2015 to 2017 – and long after the Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

The current version still disapproves of same-sex marriage: “We understand marriage as a legal and committed relationship between a man and a woman and believe that the only proper place for sexual activity is within these boundaries of conjugal love.” The spokesman added that there is a new passage that “rejects any form of harassment, bullying, verbal abuse or intimidation by any member of the Trinity School community towards another member for any reason”, including “gender, race.” , ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or perceived sexuality. “

A White House spokeswoman said Barrett was not involved in drafting the statement, but she agreed with her public views on the matter: you co-signed a letter to the Catholic bishops, dated 3 months after the Obergefell decision, confirms that marriage is the “indissoluble obligation of a man and a woman”. In a 1998 article, “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” she referred to abortion as “always immoral”. Barrett has also said that these views would not affect their case law. “It is never appropriate for a judge to force that judge’s personal beliefs – whether from faith or elsewhere – on the law,” she said during her 2017 affirmation.

The school is popular even with Notre Dame faculties that are not affiliated with People of Praise: it takes a seminar-style educational approach and focuses on reading original texts. The ninth grade reading list includes the Federalist Papers and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. In the tenth grade, students read Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Before graduating, they read John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government. Trinity teams have also represented Indiana in national mock trial competitions.

Although its members are influential, the People of Praise tend to stay out of the public eye as an organization. Many South Benders said they knew little or nothing about the group before Barrett was appointed to federal court in 2017. Jack Colwell, the town’s columnist told me at the South Bend Tribune he hadn’t heard from the group before Barrett’s nomination for the 7th Circuit.

Nevertheless, the group was woven into the bourgeois fabric. “Over the years, People of Praise members have become solid, indeed strong, members of the South Bend community,” said Robert Schmuhl, professor emeritus of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, who has taught here since 1980. (Schmuhl’s son Mike led the 2020 presidential campaign for former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.) “You were responsible for a number of activities that have contributed to the spiritual and cultural life of the community.”

In 1971 two Catholic charismatics, Kevin Ranaghan and Paul DeCelles founded People of Praise in South Bend from a story of the group written by one of its first 29 members, Adrian Reimers, a former Notre Dame professor who later became a critic of the movement. (Reimer declined an interview with POLITICO.) It’s not a church; Members attend services in their own churches, mostly Catholic. There were two levels of membership: “in progress”, in which members are taking courses and are not yet fully admitted to People of Praise, and “alliance” members who agree to obey the group’s dictates.

In his 1986 article, Charismatic Covenant Community: A Failed Promise, published in Cultic Studies Journal, Reimers wrote These members agreed to “obey the direction of the Holy Spirit manifested in and through these ministries in full harmony with the Church … We recognize in the covenant a unique relationship with one another and between individuals and communities. We take responsibility for mutual care, concern and service among us. We will serve each other and the community as a whole in all needs: spiritually, materially, financially … We agree that the weekly community meeting is at the forefront of our obligations and can only be absent for serious reasons. ”

When asked about the covenant, Sean Connolly, the group’s communications director, said in an email to POLITICO, “After years of prayer and discernment, many People of Praise members are choosing to make an ongoing commitment called the covenant becomes. The people’s covenant of praise is a promise of love and service that we give to one another. The covenant is not an oath or a vow. Our covenant is the obligation to be there for one another in the long term and to support one another through thick and thin, during all seasons of life. ”

Eventually the members of the group split up in neighborhoods like Barrett’s Harter Heights. The group also acquired their current meeting house near the Trinity Sports Fields along Ironwood Road, a few miles from the school. The practically windowless facility with privately owned signs has a black and white People of Praise sign on the side. In the back of the worship center, last Thursday evening, on a terrace where the young people from People of Praise gather for the action group, a kind of youth group, a whiteboard showed a diagram of the mythological house of Atreus.

Since Barrett’s 2017 nomination for the Bundesbank, journalists have worked to learn more about the group. In some cases they describe a “sexist” and “authoritarian“Environment. Barrett has not confirmed her involvement in People of Praise, nor has People of Praise confirmed her membership – despite numerous reports of her membership Sockets in the past two years. But the former member who spoke to POLITICO said she saw Barrett and her family at meetings on Sundays, and the family regularly sat in front of hers. “She prayed with my mother when we adopted my youngest brother. My father and her husband got to know each other pretty well, and my other brother and her son were together in a group of Saturday boys,” said that person. “My point is that while I disagree with her political affiliation, I think she’s probably a really kind person.”

The last time she remembered seeing the Barrett family meet up was in 2011 when she was in high school. The The group’s magazine, Vine and Branches, published photos of her, as well as birth and adoption Announcementsbefore scrubbing later You. A 2018 items The National Catholic Reporter asked questions about “the group’s practice of being accountable to a more spiritually mature personal advisor, referred to as the“ head ”for men and previously the“ maid ”(now“ woman leader ”) for single women. Married women – like Barrett – are “led” by their husbands. ”

On Sundays, the parking lot here fills up with vans with 12 passengers as People of Praise families tend to be large before leaving when they can despite their best efforts, according to the former member, whose parents were involved for nearly 20 years do not advance from current classification to full covenant status. Her parents’ spiritual leaders in the group urged the family not to save for college but to pay for Trinity because it would pay off with a college scholarship.

Although families are free to go, fear of losing social capital and membership status persists in South Bend. “When my parents left, they all lost their friends,” said the former member. There is fear: “If I go, will my child get into Notre Dame?”

The former headquarters of the People of Praise Downtown South Bend is now home to a mixed-use apartment complex called The LaSalle, which was last renovated in 2017. The Hideaway, a wood-paneled cocktail bar, is on the first floor. One final night, Jerry Roberts, 57, the owner of the Hideaway, was doing an old fashioned on an otherwise slow night. The cocktail bar, he said, was once the smoking lounge for the People of Praise.

After he opened the bar, Roberts said he was shown around the building by members of People of Praise. Long before Barrett’s involvement with the group attracted national attention, he had heard that the group was a cult. “I’ve been told by everyone I’ve spoken to that it’s a cult,” he tells me.

Now national attention is back. In the early evening, regional reporters from CNN and NBC were exercising their eyes and lenses on Barrett’s house. “I’m sure she handles it like anything else – with grace,” said Nicole Garnett, law professor at the John P. Murphy Foundation of Notre Dame, on Friday morning. She has known Garnett, one of Barrett’s closest friends and neighbors, since they met in 1998. At that time, Garnett was an employee of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court and Barrett was an employee of Antonin Scalia. They banded together through Japanese ate out of bento boxes in the courtyard.

Notre Dame, South Bend’s most famous institution, protects Barrett as fiercely as possible. After POLITICO published a story about Barrett’s path to the nomination, mentioning her involvement in People of Praise as well as Notre Dame’s right-wing conservatism, Paul Browne, vice president of public affairs and communications, canceled interviews on campus that I requested with fellow attorneys had professors, although Garnett was still ready to speak to me.

When asked about People of Praise, Garnett said to me, “I know a lot of people are involved in People of Praise and are members of a community and they are just your normal, nice, generous people.” Her own daughter attends Trinity and she says she knows a number of Notre Dame faculties that are members of the People of Praise.

In South Bend, despite Barrett’s national fame, she never crossed paths with another famous South Bender, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “I don’t know her personally,” Buttigieg told me in 2019. I asked him if the local judge would be one of his favorites at the Supreme Court should he be elected. “As far as I know of your personal legal philosophy, I can’t imagine it,” he said. According to a copy of Barrett’s ballot from the Indiana Statewide Voter Registration System obtained from POLITICO, Barrett voted in the 2016 and 2018 general election, as well as the 2016 Republican primary, despite holding a Democratic vote in the 2011 primary when Buttigeg ran for mayor.

Before the pandemic, Coney Barrett traveled to Chicago a few times a month to hear cases outside the Seventh Circuit, but kept her chambers and law firm in South Bend. She maintains an office near the campus center and teaches two classes – one statutory and one constitutional. She trains intensively at Primal Fitness, where she is said to be highly competitive and particularly good at pull-ups. Because of her large family, she rarely eats in local facilities.

The Grenade and Barretts raised their families together, she said. Garnett’s daughter Maggie wrote a op-ed about their close relationship. “As a kid, the Barrett’s house was one of my favorite places,” writes Garnett. “We’ve spent countless dinners, holidays, and weekday afternoons there.”

Garnett said they had plans with the Barretts last Friday night but wasn’t sure if the scheduled meeting was over. “Hey Rick,” she had said to her husband earlier in the morning before we talked. We should go to the Barretts tonight. “

“I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

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