The left-leaning N.C. Policy Watch website is under fire for publishing an opinion article that argued the U.S. Supreme Court will soon be “so packed with Catholics ... that soon it’ll be telling the Vatican what to do.”
The conservative Civitas Institute and a Republican senator say the article is a “bigoted, hate-filled rant” against Catholics. Policy Watch is standing behind its decision to publish the piece by Maryland journalist Frank DeFilippo, which addresses President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court and the role of religion in politics.
”Kavanaugh’s Roman Catholicism, and the weight of the Catholic Church on the Supreme Court, along with his views -- past, present and future -- on the Rorschach-test of Roe vs. Wade, will be enough to give God heartburn,” DeFilippo wrote.
Civitas criticized the piece in a news release and included a comment from Sen. Kathy Harrington, a Gaston County Republican and a member of the Catholic Church.
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“What a bigoted, hate-filled rant, written by a man who thinks God is dead (and) is desperately hoping he’s right,” Harrington said. “People of faith should never be mocked.”
On Tuesday, Policy Watch director Rob Schofield defended the piece, which he says is “clearly not in any way intended to be any kind of anti-Catholic statement.”
“It was just a provocative piece about an important issue” surrounding the role of religion on the Supreme Court, Schofield added.
But Civitas says DeFilippo has a “clear history of religious bigotry,” pointing to other opinion articles, including a 2016 piece in which he argues that religious participation is declining because of “what the three major religions have allowed themselves to become: Christianity as a magic show, Judaism as a food festival and Islam ... an eternal erotic experience.”
That article was not published by Policy Watch, but Schofield said DeFilippo is “a marvelous writer who has been around for a long time” and written for numerous well-respected publications.
Civitas President Donald Bryson said the decision to run DeFilippo’s opinion “truly begs the question whether or not N.C. Policy Watch can be taken seriously as a public policy organization in North Carolina.”
Civitas and Policy Watch have sparred over opinion articles before. Last fall, Schofield called out Civitas for using its Drudge Report-style news website to promote an anti-Semitic blog post about state Attorney General Josh Stein. Civitas ultimately apologized for the decision and shut down the Carolina Plott Hound news aggregator website.
A Civitas article about the DeFilippo piece mentions the Plott Hound controversy and suggests it shows “hypocrisy” by Policy Watch. But Schofield said the Stein blog post and the DeFilippo piece are not “even remotely comparable.”
Policy Watch is the news and commentary arm of the N.C. Justice Center.