Court records suggest the People of Praise, an insular Christian community of which Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was a member, may have exerted total control over some female member’s lives and decisions, and accused members of fostering a sexualized environment around minor children.

A sworn affidavit from 1993 which came from Cynthia Carnick, who claimed she didn’t want her five young children visiting their father John Carnick while he was a People of Praise member. She described several instances involving the POP’s founder, Kevin Ranaghan and his wife Dorothy Ranaghan.

Carnick, who now no longer uses that last name, said she witnessed the Ranaghan’s partake in “sexual displays” in front of her children, describing one instance of this where a clothed Dorothy was laid on top of Kevin while “rocking” on top of him. An affidavit from a woman named Susan Reynolds said Kevin sometimes showered with his young daughters, and “decided to quit” doing that after she spoke with Dorothy about it.

One former member, Colette Humphrey, was with the group from 1973 to 1978 and spoke about the control that leading members like Kevin Ranaghan exerted over her. “When I was part of the People of Praise I was in full life submission to Kevin Ranaghan, under full obedience to him … I had to hand my paycheck to Kevin Ranaghan and he would decide on how that paycheck would be used,” Humphrey said.

None of these statements led to charges against the Ranaghans or the People of Praise group in general. It is unfortunately not the first time a former member has referenced this either. Sarah Kuehl said in 2020 she and others were abused in the group as children in the 1970s, and that People of Praise later worked to “hide and cover up” knowledge of the incidents to protect her abuser.

The group is fundamentalist and conservative in its adopted viewpoints and general structure. They have intensely anti-LGBT views, and only men are allowed to be a part of the group’s highest leadership board.

Amy Coney Barrett lived with the Ranaghans while attending Notre Dame Law School, and even reached the highest position a woman can have in it, which was called a “handmaiden.” The term was changed to “woman leader” in 2017 after it drew comparisons to the series The Handmaid’s Tale.

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