The story that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s charismatic Catholic group “People of Praise” inspired Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” was perpetuated this week by ABC News even after it was debunked.
Speaking on “Good Morning America” on Thursday, correspondent Tom Llamas noted that Barrett is a “devout Catholic” with connections to a religious group that some might find problematic.
“A devout Catholic who clerked for the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett is supported by religious conservatives and anti-abortion activists. … Pro-choice groups have raised concerns over how Barrett would vote on abortion issues. Planned Parenthood condemned the judge’s nomination to the federal bench. Since she was appointed, she hasn’t issued a ruling on abortion and hasn’t questioned Roe v. Wade’s overall precedent, but critics say she’s sided against rulings that strike down restrictions on abortions,” noted Llamas, as reported by Newsbusters.
Llamas then highlighted the “controversy” surrounding Barrett’s connection to “People of Praise.”
“Also under the microscope, Barrett’s link to a small, charismatic Christian community called People of Praise. The group telling ABC News it will neither confirm nor deny if Barrett is a current member, but she was listed as a former board of trustees member at the organization’s Trinity school from 2015 to 2017 and has been named and photographed in since-deleted online versions of the organization’s magazine,” noted Llamas.
“According to its website, ‘many of its members choose to make a lifetime commitment to the community—a covenant,’” he continued. “Members are assigned a personal adviser. Men were called ‘heads’ and women were called ‘handmaids.’ But those titles since changed to ‘leaders’ amid speculation the group may have inspired the novel and Emmy-award winning drama ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’”
Finally, Llamas noted the fact that author Margaret Atwood said “People of Praise” was not a direct inspiration for her novel, which was a conglomeration of various sects and groups. ABC News did, however, leave open the possibility that “People of Praise” may have been a factor.
“But author Margaret Atwood saying that’s not accurate, telling ABC News there were several inspirations,” reported Llamas. “But because her notes are locked in a closed library due to COVID, quote, ‘I hesitate to say anything specific for the major influences on the book, I certainly did not confine myself to one sect or group. So I don’t think this is a thread can be legitimately used in this way.’”
“People of Praise insisting they did not inspire Atwood’s story and that the organization ‘does not take positions on political matters, legislation, or constitutional interpretation,’” he concluded.
The falsehood about “People of Praise” began earlier this week with a report from Newsweek—a report which was subsequently corrected by the outlet.
“Members of People of Praise are assigned to personal advisers of the same sex—called a ‘head’ for men and ‘handmaid’ for women, until the rise in popularity of Atwood’s novel and the television series based on it forced a change in the latter,” the outlet reported. “Atwood herself has indicated that the group’s existence motivated her to write The Handmaid’s Tale, set in the fictional Gilead, where women’s bodies are governed and treated as the property of the state under a theocratic regime.”
Newsweek later issued a correction to the story, noting that “People of Praise” did not inspire Atwood’s novel and that no evidence exists to suggest that.
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