Editor’s Note: The People of Praise originally told CNA the date of the hack was Sept. 23. A spokesman contacted CNA after publication to say he had spoken in error. The date of the hack was Sept. 21 and this story has been amended to reflect the correct date.
DENVER, Colo. — Days before Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court, the website of the People of Praise was hacked, CNA has learned. The hack breached the membership database of the charismatic community, in which Barrett and her family are reportedly members.
“On September 21, 2020, our security staff identified an incident via our website involving unauthorized access to contact information in our membership directory,” Sean Connolly, a spokesman for the group, said Tuesday night in response to questions from CNA about the hack.
“No further details, such as parties that may have initiated this incursion, are known, and we have provided our members with resources should they notice suspicious activity,” Connolly added.
Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court Sept. 26.
By Sept. 23, the federal judge had emerged as a front-runner for the Supreme Court seat that was vacated when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Sept. 18.
Amid speculation regarding Barrett’s possible appointment, numerous media reports focused on the People of Praise, the Indiana-based ecumenical charismatic community to which Barrett reportedly belongs.
The group was characterized by some pundits as a cult, falsely reported to be the inspiration for a dystopian novel, and erroneously reported to require members to adhere to a secret agreement, which is in fact posted on its website.
People of Praise was also criticized by some pundits because it does not disclose its membership, which defenders say is a common policy among religious organizations.
In that context, sources told CNA that the group’s membership database was hacked, which Connolly confirmed Tuesday night.
While the People of Praise declined to speculate about who might have been responsible for the hack, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNA that some “community members were contacted by national media outlets within 36 hours of the [database] incursion,” which the source called an “alarming coincidence.”
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