Is Amy Coney Barrett’s In A Cult? The People Of Praise Sect & Its Alleged Abuses Explained
Is Amy Coney Barrett In A Cult? The People Of Praise Sect & Its Alleged Abuses Explained
Members of the Supreme Court Justice’s conservative religious sect have alleged sexual abuse.
The secretive Christian sect People of Praise (PoP) that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a member of, is currently embroiled in a scandal involving former members coming forward with allegations of abuse.
The FBI has has interviewed several people in connection with the sexual abuse allegations, though it is unclear if they have launched a formal investigation into PoP, according to reporting from The Guardian.
The individuals interviewed came forward after the abuse survivors group PoP Survivors spent years trying to get the sect investigated for the leadership’s handling of sexual abuse allegations.
Who are the People of Praise?
The PoP was founded in the 1970s and is a Christian group led exclusively by men who believes in a male-dominated hierarchy and conservative gender roles. Its members are mostly Catholic, but the religious group blends Catholicism and Protestant Pentecostalism. Members are encouraged to share prophecies and speak in tongues and one former member told The Guardian that “adherents believe God can speak through members to deliver messages, sometimes about their future.”
According to the PoP handbook, members make lifelong vows of loyalty to one another, members are expected to give 5% of their earnings to the group, and they must be obedient to male leaders or “group heads” who will weigh in on everything from dating to marriage to where members should live.
PoP has been criticized for giving men so much power over the lives of women and for the policy of expelling LGBTQ+ members. Newsweek reports that the conservative Christian group served as the inspiration for Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale. The group has also faced criticism for encouraging followers to live with others from PoP which former members say creates opportunities for sexual abuse to happen.
How is Amy Coney Barrett involved?
Barrett’s parents are members of the group and she herself is a lifelong member. While her membership in PoP was not raised at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, news outlets did report the connection at the time.
According to documents obtained by the Washington Post, at one point the Trump appointee held the title of “handmaid” within the group—a leadership position for women in the community.
PoP has wiped all mention of Barrett from their website and literature, but before she was married Barrett and her husband lived together in the home of one of the founders of PoP, Kevin Ranaghan.
During her confirmation hearing, Barrett insisted that her religious beliefs wouldn’t color her rulings, but Senator Dianne Feinstein said to Barrett at the time, "The dogma lives loudly within you."
What are the victims alleging happened?
At least five former members of PoP were contacted by the FBI, with four detailing accounts of sexual abuse they allegedly experienced or witnessed at the hands of people from the religious group.
One woman says she was sexually abused by a teacher. She was interviewed by the FBI, but said she was told by agents last week that the investigation into her claims was closed. The Guardian reported that this news made her feel disappointed and full of “a lot of questions.”
The Survivors of Praise contacted the FBI in 2022, offering up a list of people who had been witnesses to the alleged abuse, former member Pete Smith said.
In the letter to the FBI which was obtained by the outlet, the survivors allege that PoP engaged in a “widespread and ongoing conspiracy to cover up the abuse of children within its families and the schools it operates” and that members had experienced sexual abuse at the hands of their parents, teachers and non-family members of their household.