People Of Praise: Inside Amy Coney Barrett's Controversial Religious Group

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People Of Praise: Inside Amy Coney Barrett's Controversial Religious Group
Entertainment And News

All eyes are on President Donald Trump’s picks for Supreme Court Justice after the untimely death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and one of the candidates in the front running to fill RBG’s seat is Amy Coney Barrett, a former law professor who currently serves as a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Amy and her family are all devout Catholics and allegedly belong to a group called People of Praise, which has been referred to as a “cult” by some. 

What is People of Praise, Amy Coney Barrett's controversial religious group?

Founded in 1971, People of Praise is a close-knit Christian community whose 2000 members practice different religious divisions within Christianity.

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“We are Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and other denominational and nondenominational Christians. Despite our differences, we are bound together by our Christian baptism. Despite our differences, we worship together. While remaining faithful members of our own churches, we have found a way to live our daily lives together,” their website reads.

The group has three locations in which their members meet: South Bend, Indiana, Eagen, Minnesota, and Church Falls, Virginia. 

Why is People of Praise controversial?

There are multiple reasons why People of Praise is considered a controversial religious group. In 2017, it was reported that members of People of Praise “swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women,” and that the group “teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.” 

More recently, People of Praise clarified the use of the term “handmaid,” as it’s taken on a specific meaning in pop culture today.

“For many years, we referred to our female leaders as handmaids, following the use of the term by Mary, Jesus’s mother, who calls herself ‘the handmaid of the Lord,’ as reported in the Bible (Lk. 1:38),” People of Praise wrote in a fact sheet. 

“Recognizing that the meaning of this term has shifted dramatically in our culture in recent years, we no longer use the term handmaid to describe those women who are leaders in the People of Praise.”

The New York Times also reported that members of the group turn to the “heads” that were assigned to them to help make important, monumental life decisions, like where to live, who to marry, their career path, and more.

The report also stated that members of People of Praise confirmed that Amy and her husband, Jesse Barrett, both belong to the group and both Amy and Jesse’s fathers have served as leaders as well.

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“The group believes in prophecy, speaking in tongues and divine healings, staples of Pentecostal churches that some Catholics have also adopted in a movement called charismatic renewal,” the report also revealed. 

While People of Praise has come under scrutiny by many in the political ring, one of the group’s leaders, Craig S. Lent, claimed that the group does not try to control its members, adding, “There’s never any guarantee that the leader is always right. You have to discern and act in the Lord.”

“If and when members hold political offices, or judicial offices, or administrative offices, we would certainly not tell them how to discharge their responsibilities,” he continued.

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Was The Handmaid's Tale inspired by People of Praise?

There are some reports that state that People of Praise served as inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s futuristic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood even mentioned Catholic charismatic spinoff sects — like People of Praise — in an interview in 1986, one year after her best-selling novel was published.

"I delayed writing it for about three years after I got the idea because I felt it was too crazy," Atwood said over two decades ago. “Then two things happened. I started noticing that a lot of the things I thought I was more or less making up were now happening, and indeed more of them have happened since the publication of the book."

“There is a sect now, a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect, which calls the women handmaids,” she added. “They don't go in for polygamy of this kind, but they do threaten the handmaids according to the biblical verse I use in the book — sit down and shut up."

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Olivia Jakiel is an editor and writer who covers celebrity and entertainment news. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her zingers on Twitter