Even before she was officially nominated to the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett’s involvement in a little known secretive Christian community called People of Praise became a topic of fascination. There are only 1,650 adult members, and it’s based in South Bend, Indiana.
One former member, Lisa Williams, told Inside Edition her parents joined the community when she was a child. She said they would jump around, fall on the floor and speak in tongues. She also claims she witnessed an exorcism of a woman who had premarital sex.
A People of Praise spokesman denies the group practices exorcism and said they did not exist in Minnesota when Williams was there.
Coral Anika Theil said she was a member for five years, from 1979 to 1984. She doesn’t have fond memories of her time in the community and said she had to be “subservient” to her husband. She also said other men from the group would stop by to see if she was doing her house work.
In a statement to Inside Edition, People of Praise said, “We believe no one should be either domineering or servile in their relationships with other people, including in marriage. Marriages should be marked by mutual love and cooperation between spouses.”
A membership directory obtained by The New York Times lists Amy Coney Barrett as a “handmaid,” a term once used by People of Praise to refer to their female leaders. But the term was replaced with “woman leaders” after the TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” made it sound “sinister.”
Professor Thomas Csordas spoke to Inside Edition about the community.
“They are conservative, authoritarian, hierarchical and patriarchal,” he said. “And men are definitely in charge.”
Barrett seemed to address the issue when she spoke at the White House Rose Garden ceremony, portraying her marriage as one of equal partners raising a family.
“At the start of our marriage, I imagined that we would run our household as partners. As it has turned out, Jesse does far more than his share of the work. To my chagrin, I learned at dinner recently that my children consider him to be the better cook," she said.
But Theil said her experience was very different from Barrett's.
Other women in People of Praise say they had much more positive experiences. They describe a supportive community of families helping each other out, sharing child-care duties and carpooling and offering a sense of community.
Barrett's sister has spoken out, saying her sister's religious views are a non-issue, because Barrett will rule according to the law, not her faith.