The founder of People of Praise, a secretive charismatic Christian group that counts Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett among its members, was described in a sworn affidavit filed in the 1990s as exercising near total control over one female members of the group, including making all decisions regarding his finances and romantic relationships.
The court documents also described alleged instances of a sexualized atmosphere at the home of the founder, Kevin Ranaghan, and his wife, Dorothy Ranaghan.
The Ranaghans’ description and accusations of their intimate behavior appeared in a 1993 proceeding in which a woman, Cynthia Carnick, said she did not want her five minor children to have visits with their father, John Roger Carnick, who was then a member of the People of Praise, in the Ranaghan household or in their presence, because she believed it was not in the “best interests” of her children. Cynthia Carnick also described inappropriate incidents involving the couple and Ranaghan’s children. The case was eventually settled between the parties.
Barrett, 50, lived with Dorothy and Kevin Ranaghan in their nine-bedroom home in South Bend, Indiana, while she attended law school, according to public records. The judge – who was then known as Amy Coney – graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1997 and two years later married her husband, Jesse Barrett, who also appears to have lived in the Ranaghan household. There is no indication that Amy Coney Barrett was living in the home at the time the Carnick children visited or witnessed any of the alleged behavior described in court documents.
Review of People of Praise’s history and attitude towards women comes with Supreme Court majority – including Barrett – look set to reverse Roe v Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
Cynthia Carnick said in the documents that she saw Dorothy Ranaghan tie the arms and legs of two of the Ranaghans’ daughters – who were three and five when the incidents were allegedly witnessed – to their cribs with ties. She also said the Ranaghans allegedly performed “sex parades” in front of their children and other adults, such as Dorothy Ranaghan lying in her clothes and “swaying” on Kevin Ranaghan in their TV room.
Cynthia Carnick – who no longer uses Carnick as her surname – declined to comment but said she stood by the statement she made at the time.
In an affidavit supporting Cynthia Carnick’s written statement, a woman named Colette Humphrey said she lived with Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan from 1973 to 1978, when she was a member of People of Praise, and confirmed that she had witnessed incidents of inappropriate sexual expression. .
Humphrey also wrote in his statement, “When I was Praise People, I was in full submission to Kevin Ranaghan, under his full obedience and he exercised that authority over most areas of my life. For example, we were “in common” financially, which meant that I had to give my paycheck to Kevin Ranaghan and he would decide how that paycheck would be used. Kevin Ranaghan controlled my romantic relationships, deciding who and when I should date.
Humphrey – who now uses a different surname – did not respond to a request for comment left at his residence.
A third woman, Susan Reynolds, said in an affidavit that she lived in the Ranaghan household and was at one point “shocked” to learn that Kevin Ranaghan sometimes showered with two of her daughters, who were 10 or 11 years old at the time. She said in her statement that Dorothy Ranaghan later told her Kevin had “decided to stop showering with them” after Reynolds asked Dorothy about the practice.
The Ranaghans did not file any affidavits in the 1993 proceedings, to which they were not a party.
Dorothy Ranaghan declined to comment to the Guardian. Kevin Ranaghan said: “These allegations are almost three decades old, outlandish and completely baseless. We have a loving and loving marriage of 55 years and have welcomed dozens of people into our home as part of our religious faith and commitment to serving God.
A spokesperson representing the Ranaghans emailed a statement to the Guardian on behalf of the couple’s six adult children. He said they had been “insulted by false and misleading statements about our childhood relationships with our parents from decades ago”. “We are part of a loving family and it is hurtful and irresponsible to make these absurd claims now.”
People of Praise said in a statement: “Since 1967, Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan have been known and respected for their tireless work in sharing the free gift of the Holy Spirit with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. We are proud that they are members and leaders of People of Praise.
Claims about the Ranaghans’ behavior and Kevin Ranaghan’s alleged control over at least one former People of Praise member come to light two years after the Guardian first reported the group had hired a law firm to conduct an “independent” investigation over decades. – old allegations of sexual abuse against minors by some members of the Christian faith group.
Since then, at least one alleged victim who cooperated with the investigation has been told that the investigation into the sexual abuse allegations by the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has been completed, but that a written report from its findings would not be released to alleged victims or the public.
When an alleged sexual abuse victim, who spoke to the Guardian but asked not to be named, asked about the investigation into her own case, Quinn Emanuel’s lawyer Diane Doolittle allegedly told her that at least some of those who had been questioned about the allegations “did not recall the details” and that it had been “difficult” to obtain information.
The South Bend-based group is a covenanted community, meaning members have a “contractual commitment” to live together – sometimes families and single members may live in one household – and are expected to share some of their income and regularly attend hour-long private prayer meetings, which may include exorcisms and speaking in tongues. The group has around 1,700 members, is predominantly Catholic but is open to all Christians and espouses conservative views on gender. It opposes same-sex marriage, and only men can sit on its board of directors or as coordinators, who run different branches of the community.
The Washington Post reported in 2020 that a 2010 People of Praise yearbook showed Barrett served as a “servant”, a female advisor to other female members. Barrett also served on the Trinity Schools Board, whose members must be People of Praise, from 2015 to 2017, at a time when schools effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and – according to the AP – “made it clear that openly gay and lesbian teachers were not welcome in the classroom”.
Doolittle did not respond to an emailed request for comment. People of Praise said in a statement: “The independent review by Quinn Emmanuel was concluded over a year ago and meetings regarding the review have taken place.”
The Guardian requested a comment from Amy Coney Barrett’s office through the Supreme Court’s press office, but did not receive a response.
In June 2021, four victims of alleged sexual or physical abuse in the People of Praise published an open letter in the South Bend Tribune calling for reforms within the faith group. Suggested reforms included public acknowledgment that there had been a “systemic failure to protect children of People of Praise from abuse”, public naming of all individuals who have been “credibly accused of abuse” or “concealment of abuse within People of Praise or its schools”. , and placing an equal number of women in the group’s highest leadership positions, and giving them “an equal vote in all group decisions”. The letter said the Catholic Church had publicly named people credibly accused of abuse.
Barrett, who is Catholic, has never been publicly questioned about her membership in People of Praise, which was first revealed in a New York Times article in 2017, after Barrett, a former law professor at Notre Dame, was nominated by Donald Trump to serve as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She was confirmed and then later, in 2020, was nominated and confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Barrett said his religious beliefs, including his previously expressed views against Roe versus Wade, did not affect his role as a judge and would not affect his impartiality.
Justice’s involvement in People of Praise only became public in 2017 after a former member, Kevin Connolly, said he reported the story to The New York Times. He did it, he told the Guardian, because he thought it was important for the public to know and understand his affiliation with the group. He was also one of four authors of the open letter sent to the South Bend Tribune.
Connolly, who is the brother of People of Praise’s main spokesperson, Sean Connolly, told the Washington Post in 2021 that his father, who was then a member of People of Praise, was abusive and kicked him in the face when he was 10, leaving him with a black eye.
Connolly came forward, he said, after hearing about several other incidents of physical abuse among his friends growing up. Neither Connolly’s father nor her brother responded to questions from the Post at the time the alleged abuse was reported in The Washington Post.
“Growing up in the People of Praise, I knew they held beliefs that would be extreme for the vast majority of practicing Catholics, including gay rights and women’s rights. I looked at the number of people living in those states covered by the seventh circuit court and then I projected those numbers onto a lifetime appointment. It was well into the tens of millions. That’s when I reported the story to the New York Times in 2017. As a Supreme Court justice, his extreme views could affect more than half a billion Americans in his lifetime,” he told the Guardian.