Judge Barrett’s connection to the small and relatively obscure Christian group People of Praise also attracted attention after a report in 2017 that she and her husband were members. The group grew out of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement that began in the late 1960s and adopted Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, belief in prophecy and divine healing.
Peers describe her as a textualist like Justice Scalia: one who interprets the law based on its plain words, as opposed to someone who looks to accomplish the legislature’s purpose. And they said she was an originalist, meaning a judge who interprets the Constitution according to the understanding of those who drafted and ratified it.
“Justice Kennedy showed a willingness to interpolate things into the Constitution that, in cases like Obergefell, that Justice Scalia for example would not have done,” said John Garvey, the president of the Catholic University of America, who taught Judge Barrett in law school, referring to the 2015 decision that established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. “My guess is that Judge Barrett wouldn’t assume that the judicial role carried that much power with it.”
In a 2017 law review article written before she joined the appeals court, Judge Barrett was critical of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s 2012 opinion sustaining a central provision of the Affordable Care Act, saying he had betrayed the commands of textualism. “Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute,” she wrote.
The court will again hear arguments on the fate of the law in November, and Judge Barrett’s article suggested that she would give its challengers a sympathetic hearing.
Her judicial philosophy on abortion has already garnered the most interest, for personal and legal reasons. In a talk at Jacksonville University in 2016, Judge Barrett said that the core holding of Roe v. Wade was that women had the right to an abortion, and that was not likely to change in the future, but how states restrict abortion might.
“I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that would change,” she said.