President Donald Trump has succeeded, aided and abetted by a willing and corrupt senate, in ramming through his third Supreme Court nominee, the very conservative Amy Coney Barrett. Her successful appointment to the nation’s highest court does not bode well for freedom and justice at home or abroad.
There has been much conversation about Barrett’s Catholic faith, which, in and of itself, is entirely irrelevant to any discussion of her qualifications. But there are many issues that are pertinent to any conversation about her lack of suitability for her new position, and one of them does relate to her religious beliefs.
The new Supreme Court justice is a member of an organization called ‘People of Praise’, comprised mainly, but not exclusively, of Catholics. It grew from the Pentecostal movement, and “The group organizes and meets outside the purview of a church and includes people from several Christian denominations, but its members are mostly Roman Catholic.”
Female members of ‘People of Praise’ are referred to as ‘handmaids’, and former members state that women are expected to be totally submissive to their husbands. Coral Anika Theill, who was part of the group for many years and has written a book about her experiences, Bonshea: Making Light of the Dark’, states that her husband accompanied her to doctor’s appointments to assure that she was not obtaining birth control. Rebekah Powers was raised in the group, but left at age 18. She has stated that “It has taken decades of therapy and hard work to overcome the intense feelings of shame and fear of damnation that she said marked her childhood.”
While Barrett’s association with the ‘People of Praise’ cult should have disqualified her, one might argue that that is placing too much emphasis on her religious beliefs. This writer thinks that emphasis is completely appropriate, but if not, let’s look at another extremely troubling aspect of her history.
For several years, a terrorist organization called the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (Mujahadeen-e-Khalk; known simply as MEK) was officially designated a terrorist organization by the United States government. The sole purpose of the existence of the MEK is to overthrow the government of Iran and install a right-wing replacement, one that would be reminiscent of the brutal reign of the Shah of Iran.
“From 2000 to 2001, Barrett was part of a team that represented the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The council was seeking a review of its then designation as a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ by the US government.” In 2012, the ‘terrorist’ designation was removed, and since then the MEK has received the support of prominent Republicans, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton and the erratic former New York City mayor, and now Trump attorney, Rudi Giuliani, who refers to the MEK as a ‘government in exile’. This statement is ludicrous; every reputable poll of Iranians, both those living in Iran and those in other nations, indicates that they oppose both the goals and tactics of the MEK. But as Trump’s attorney, one must not look too closely at facts.
Masquerading as a pro-democracy organization, the secretive group is responsible for the deaths of at least 12,000 Iranians. On June 28, 1981, the group bombed the Islamic Republic Party headquarters in Tehran, killing seventy-three people. The group has been accused of working with Israel to assassinate Iranian scientists.
The group’s treatment of its own members is not much better. For example, Reza Sadeghi had been a member of MEK for twenty-six years and hds not left the MEK compound for more than ten years. “During that time, he’d had no contact with his family or news of them. The MEK leadership had forced him and most of the other cadres living at Camp Ashraf to abandon even their closest relationships. Most painful for Sadeghi were thoughts of his son, Paul, his only child, now 16 years old. Sadeghi hadn’t seen or spoken to Paul since he’d arrived in Iraq.”
In 2020, Sadeghi told the organization’s leaders that he was leaving to find his son. He was detained and forced into a truck. “’You’re dead,’ one of Sadeghi’s captors told him. ‘We are going to put you in the ground, and no one will ever know what happened to you.’ Forced disappearances and solitary confinement were not uncommon at Camp Ashraf, and Sadeghi was sure he would be executed.” He was able to escape and was, ironically, rescued by two U.S. terrorists (soldiers) who were out patrolling.
The MEK was started by Massoud Rajavi and his wife, Maryam, who fancied themselves the next rulers of Iran, once they and their 2,000 – 3,000 followers were able to convince the 80,000,000 Iranians to reject the Islamic Revolution they fought so hard for, and follow them. Like Giuliani, realistic thinking is not their strong suit. As of this writing, Massoud Rajavi is believed to be dead, and his wife is seldom, if ever, seen in public.
This is the organization that the United States’ newest Supreme Court justice has defended. These are the people – who have killed thousands of Iranians and who support the overthrow of the sovereign, people’s government of Iran – that Barrett says are not terrorists. The Intercept reported that many female members over the years were force to have sex with Rajavi; many were forced to be sterilized, so they would not be distracted by children, and could fully devote their time to Rajavi and his unholy cause. Based on her association with the ‘People of Praise’ cult, this is probably just fine with her.
As of this writing, the U.S. election has not been decided. It is disheartening to imagine that so much of the citizenry has bought into Trump’s lies, Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism and misogyny. A Biden victory will not bring substantial change, but would not necessarily spell the end of any semblance of democracy. Should Trump be re-elected, it is likely that the MEK will continue to receive praise and financial assistance from the U.S. government. Other organizations, perhaps Black Lives Matter, may be designated terrorist organizations. In the Orwellian world of Donald Trump, this is only too possible. And the gradual erosion of human rights and respect for international law, neither of which the U.S. ever cared much about anyway, will become a fast-moving landslide.