I grew up in a covenant community like Barrett’s. “Concerned” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Alissa Jean Schafer
4 min readNov 10, 2020
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Before Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, “Covenant Community” was an unknown phrase to many Americans. For me, reading those two words was like seeing a ghost from the past. I grew up in one of these communities. I wanted to be a version of Barrett. Now, as a proud “liberal” but, more importantly, as a mother to a young daughter, the realization that Barrett has been confirmed to our nation’s highest court terrifies me. First on the chopping block is our healthcare, as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the ACA case today, as a global health pandemic rages on.

My parents joined one of the early communities in the “charismatic renewal” when they were in college, so I was born into it. They have since left, as have I. We were members of a group called the “Work of Christ” community, which is a part of the larger organization dubbed the “Sword of the Spirit.” My friends were “community kids” including some from other connected groups, such as “People of Hope” in New Jersey, which is now infamously tied to the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, although Margaret Atwood has said her book was based on an amalgamation of such groups.

While Barret’s community People of Praise is not officially connected to the Sword of the Spirit, their mission statements are eerily similar, including the “covenant community” phrase. Both are connected to the same charismatic movement and teachings.

While in this environment, I believed myself to be fiercely pro-life, strongly Republican, and very religious. As a young girl, I made my own anti-abortion palm cards and handed them out when I went trick-or-treating. I read the National Catholic Register and scoured the Right To Life voting recommendations. I led a pro-life rally on the steps of the Michigan Capitol, complete with a speech that I had previously won an award for at a right to life speech contest held in a local church auditorium. I felt it was my calling to end abortion.

When people talked about running for president, I talked about sitting on the Supreme Court. I knew that was the only way to overturn Roe V. Wade. I’m pretty sure there is a school essay I wrote somewhere explaining as much. I was all in. Until I wasn’t.

Halfway through college, after time spent in other ultra-conservative spaces, I transferred to a different school and was suddenly out of the “bubble.” As I finished my theology minor, I questioned everything, ultimately rejecting many of the concepts that I grew up believing to be true. It was a gradual process, and I’m grateful for trusted friends and therapists who have helped me work through the trauma and spiritual damage that I believe the covenant community environment caused. I continue to learn and grow, but I do know this: If I were still in that world, one governed by a faith steeped in teachings as interpreted and applied by the religious patriarchy, I would not be using the logical thinking skills that my parents so fervently wanted me to learn. My judgment would be clouded by false allegiances, shame, repression, and decades of gas-lighting, biases that I believe Barrett brings to her seat on the Supreme Court.

One of many crucial rights we enjoy as Americans is the freedom of conscience, the right to observe one’s religious beliefs and morality. My critique of Barrett is not an attempt to impose a religious test on the Supreme Court confirmation process but rather a fervent plea to protect our laws from being interpreted by one trained to impose a religious test on every action they take, including judicial decisions, something I fear Barrett will do in conformity with her own intensely held views.

I do believe the vast majority of people involved in these covenant communities are trying to do what they think is best, and to this day I count many of them as friends. This does not mean I think they should be in a position of political power. Barrett may be the very smart, well-trained lawyer she is praised for being. She may also be very nice to her friends, have a loving family, and her faith may be a positive force in her personal life. But that does not mean she will be a fair judge.

So what now? The day Barrett was confirmed, my daughter and I were preparing for Halloween. She dressed up as Justice RBG, and I gave a pre-school version explanation of the judicial system. She asked “why” and “how do you do that” many times, as kids do. As the fight for our world continues, I hope we can take our cue from kids and keep asking these questions. Why are we here today and how are we going to fix it? Their future quite literally depends on the answers.

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Alissa Jean Schafer

Alissa is a consultant & elected official in FL, focused primarily on progressive policies, candidates, & the transition to a clean energy future. @alissajean