Two conservative women emerged as the front runners to become President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Saturday as the president confirmed that he would pick a woman.
On Saturday afternoon, Trump named Amy Coney Barrett, 48, of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit and Barbara Lagoa, 52, of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit as possible nominees.
Emerging as the favorite is Barrett, 48, a mother of seven children, who has adopted two kids from Haiti and has a biological child with special needs.
However, her involvement in a cult-like Christian group where members are assigned a 'handmaiden' would come under fierce review if she is Trump's pick. The group helped inspire 'The Handmaids Tale', book's author Margaret Atwood has said.
Lagoa is a Cuban American from Florida whose parents fled Castro five decades ago. She has previously spoken about how her father longed to be a lawyer but was forced to abandon his dream because of the communist leader.
Her nomination has the potential to greatly aid Trump politically in the crucial swing state.
Emerging as the favorite as Trump's Supreme Court pick is Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a mother of seven children, including two adopted from Haiti and one with special needs
Barbara Lagoa, 52, is among the front runners for Trump's Supreme Court nomination. The Cuban American is pictured here with her three daughters and husband
Barrett emerges now as a front runner after she was shortlisted for the nomination in 2018, which eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump called the federal appellate court judge 'very highly respected' when questioned about her Saturday.
Born in New Orleans in 1972, she was the first and only woman to occupy an Indiana seat on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Married to Jesse M. Barrett, a partner at SouthBank Legal in South Bend and former Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, the couple have five biological and two adopted children.
Their youngest biological child has Down Syndrome.
Friends say she is a devoted mother and with just an hour to go until she was voted into the 7th District Court of Appeals by the U.S. Senate in 2017, Barrett was outside trick-or-treating with her kids.
Barrett's strong Christian ideology makes her a favorite of the right but her involvement in a religious group sometimes branded as a 'cult' is set to be harshly criticized.
In 2017, her affiliation to the small, tightly knit Christian group called People of Praise caused concern while she was a nominee for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
The New York Times reported that the practices of the group would surprise even other Catholics with members of the group swearing a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame University who is among the favorites to be Trump's Supreme Court pick
People of Praise is a Christian group that believe in speaking in tongues and prophecy
Senior figures: Amy Coney Barrett's parents Linda Coney, 70, and Michael, 72, are both part of People of Praise, with her mom having previously been a 'handmaid'
Coney Barrett has five sisters, of whom three are known to be closely involved in People of Praise, including Carrie Coney Urbanski, 42, and her husband Matt, 45. Other members of Matt's family are also in People of Praise
They are also assigned and held accountable to a personal adviser, known until recently as a 'head' for men and a 'handmaid' for women.
Members are also encouraged to confess personal sins, financial information and other sensitive disclosures to these advisors.
Advisors are allowed to report these admissions to group leadership if necessary, according to an account of one former member.
The organization itself says that the term 'handmaid' was a reference to Jesus's mother Mary's description of herself as a 'handmaid of the Lord.' They said they recently stopped using the term due to cultural shifts and now use the name 'women leaders.'
The group deems that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family while 'the heads and handmaids give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children,' the Times reported.
Unmarried members are placed living with married couples members often look to buy or rent homes near other members.
They believe in prophecy, speaking in tongues and divine healings.
Founded in 1971, People of Praise was part of the era's 'great emergence of lay ministries and lay movements in the Catholic Church,' founder Bishop Peter Smith told the Catholic News Agency.
Beginning with just 29 members, it now has an estimated 2,000.
Vivian Coney Orthmann, 34, Amy Coney Barrett's youngest sister, and her husband David Orthmann, are members of People of Praise and live in the Pacific northwest. His family are also members
Michael Coney Jr, 32, the judge's youngest sibling, and his wife Naomi Caneff Coney, 32, were full-time workers for the group
According to CNA, some former members of the People of Praise allege that leaders exerted undue influence over family decision-making, or pressured the children of members to commit to the group.
At least 10 members of Barrett's family, not including their children, also belong to the group.
Barrett's father, Mike Coney, serves on the People of Praise's powerful 11-member board of governors, described as the group's 'highest authority.'
Her mother Linda was also a handmaiden.
The group's ultra-conservative religious tenets helped spur author Margaret Atwood to publish The Handmaid's Tale, a story about a religious takeover of the U.S. government which is now a hit TV show, according to a 1986 interview with the writer.
According to legal experts, loyalty oaths such at the one Barrett would have taken to People of Praise could raise legitimate questions about a judicial nominee's independence and impartiality.
Barrett, pictured, is a concern for liberals for her anti-abortion views
'These groups can become so absorbing that it's difficult for a person to retain individual judgment,' said Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of constitutional law and history at the University of Pennsylvania.
'I don't think it's discriminatory or hostile to religion to want to learn more' about her relationship with the group.
Yet a leader of the group claimed that it would hold no influence over Barrett.
'We don't try to control people,' said Craig S. Lent. 'And there's never any guarantee that the leader is always right. You have to discern and act in the Lord.
'If and when members hold political offices, or judicial offices, or administrative offices, we would certainly not tell them how to discharge their responsibilities,' he added.
During her professional career, Barrett spent two decades as a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, from which she holds her bachelor's and law degrees.
She was named 'Distinguished Professor of the Year' three separate years, a title decided by students.
A former clerk for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, she was nominated by Trump to serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 and confirmed in a 55-43 vote by the