Media Outlets Link Catholic Group Associated With Amy Coney Barrett To ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Multiple media outlets have linked a Catholic group associated with potential Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to Margaret Atwood’s fictional dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” depicts the totalitarian society Gilead, afflicted by environmental catastrophe and infertility, where women are treated as property of the state and kept as concubines.
  • Reuters drew attention to Barrett’s possible links to the group with a story headlined: “Handmaid’s Tale? U.S. Supreme Court candidate’s religious community under scrutiny.”

Multiple media outlets linked a Catholic group associated with potential Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the fictional dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Written by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” depicts the totalitarian society Gilead, afflicted by environmental catastrophe and infertility, where women are treated as property of the state and kept as concubines. Atwood’s story has also been made into a TV series. (RELATED: Here Are 7 Things You Need To Know About Amy Coney Barrett)

Multiple news outlets, including Newsweek, falsely reported that the Catholic group People of Praise was the inspiration for “The Handmaid’s Tale” before issuing corrections, and highlighted Barrett’s reported connections with the group.

People of Praise has not confirmed or denied Barrett’s membership, according to Reuters, ever since a 2017 New York Times article reported she was a member of the group.

People of Praise describes itself as “a charismatic Christian community” that admires “the first Christians who were led by the Holy Spirit to form a community.”

“In suggesting a link between People of Praise and Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ the burden of proof clearly lies with the news outlet making such a claim,” the group’s communications director Sean Connolly told the Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday evening.

“Bottom line: There has never been any evidence whatsoever to suggest that the Indiana-based People of Praise played a role in inspiring Margaret Atwood’s book,” he added. He did not address whether Barrett is a member of the group.

The Times originally highlighted Barrett’s ties to People of Praise when her name was floated to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2017. The publication noted that Barrett’s connections to People of Praise did not come up during her 2017 Senate hearings, emphasizing that if People of Praise been brought up, it “might have led to even more intense questioning.”

“Some of the group’s practices would surprise many faithful Catholics,” the Times reported, describing how members swear oaths of covenant to each other, are assigned personal advisers, and called “head” for a man and a “handmaid” for a woman. People of Praise views a husband as the authority figure in a family, the Times reported.

Fresh scrutiny of the group emerged amid reports that Barrett might be President Donald Trump’s choice to take the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Newsweek published a Monday story titled “How Charismatic Catholic Groups Like Amy Coney Barrett’s People of Praise Inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

The Newsweek story said Atwood was inspired by the New Jersey based “People of Hope” when she wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale,” adding: “People of Praise has never had a presence in the state of New Jersey.”

Newsweek issued a correction to the story, noting that the “article’s headline originally stated that People of Praise inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

“The book’s author, Margaret Atwood, has never specifically mentioned the group as being the inspiration for her work,” Newsweek added. “A New Yorker profile of the author from 2017 mentions a newspaper clipping as part of her research for the book of a different charismatic Catholic group, People of Hope. Newsweek regrets the error.”

Salon also issued a correction after incorrectly reporting that People of Praise inspired “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

A Reuters story on People of Praise and Barrett drew criticism after Reuters tweeted it with the caption: “Handmaid’s Tale? U.S. Supreme Court candidate’s religious community under scrutiny.”

“Some have likened People of Praise, a self-described charismatic Christian community, to the totalitarian, male-dominated society of Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,'” Reuters’ original story, published Tuesday, said. “Others call it an ultraconservative group with an unusual mix of Roman Catholic and Pentecostal traditions.”

Refinery29 reported that “many believe” that “A Handmaid’s Tale” was inspired by various groups, including People of Praise, “which Barrett is reportedly affiliated with.”

“In numerous interviews, Atwood alluded to the group but did not call them out by name,” the Tuesday Refinery29 story said.

Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse slammed these portrayals in a Tuesday statement. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Disgusting Attacks On Her Faith’ — Sasse Condemns ‘Anti-Catholic Bigotry’ Against Amy Coney Barrett)

“These ugly smears against Judge Barrett are a combination of anti-Catholic bigotry and QAnon-level stupidity,” Sasse said. “People of Praise is basically a Bible study — and just like billions of Christians around the world, Judge Barrett reads the Bible, prays, and tries to serve her community,” Sasse said.

“Senators should condemn this wacky McCarthyism,” he added.

Sasse spokesman James Wegmann told the DCNF that “Ben’s been on Team Barrett from day one.”

“Over the last three years and in at least eight conversations (including one this week), he’s been urging the President to nominate Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court,” Wegmann said. “If Judge Barrett is the nominee, expect a major fight over religious liberty and look at the anti-Catholic bigotry that she and other nominees faced as a preview of what’s ahead.”

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