"Former members of a self-described charismatic Christian community known as People of Praise have revealed details about the role of women within the group—of which potential Supreme Court justice pick Amy Coney Barrett is allegedly a member.
Barrett, a federal appeals court judge, is considered the frontrunner to be nominated by President Donald Trump to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week aged 87.
A devout Roman Catholic and mother of seven, 48-year-old Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, are both reportedly members of People of Praise. The group does not publicly list its members and Barrett herself has never commented on the matter.
Barrett, through a spokesperson at the Notre Dame Law School where she is on the faculty, declined to comment for this piece.
The group, founded in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana, says it has a community of 1,700 members in 22 cities across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. In 2014, Pope Francis appointed one of its members, Peter Leslie Smith, the auxiliary bishop of Portland, Oregon.
With speculation swirling about who Trump will announce as his nominee for the Supreme Court on Saturday, people who were once part of the tight-knit community spoke to Newsweek, discussing how its leaders dictate almost every aspect of members' lives, including who they marry and how they raise their children.
People of Praise, the Catholic League and constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro also spoke to Newsweek about allegations surrounding the group and speculation over Barrett's involvement, which are included further down in the article.
Coral Anika Theill, a former member of a branch of the group in Corvallis, Oregon, told Newsweek that women are expected to be "absolutely obedient" to their husbands and the men in the group. According to Theill, those who aren't are "shamed, shunned, humiliated."
Members of the People of Praise are also assigned advisers of the same sex, called a "head" for men and a "handmaid" for women—until the latter phrase apparently became too charged following the release of Hulu's television adaption of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale. The novel portrays a totalitarian, theocratic regime where women are considered property of the state..."