Justice Alito’s passionate defense of religious liberty and freedom of speech

By Dave Andrusko

Let’s name three obvious reasons why Justice Samuel Alito’s speech delivered to the National Lawyers Convention last night would be criticized, whatever he said.

#1. Justice Alito is a leader, along with Justice Thomas, of the conservative wing of the High Court.

#2. The convention is organized by the Federalist Society, instrumental for decades in grooming strict constructionists judges, later justices, which you find throughout the federal judiciary.

#3. Justice Alito tells it like it is. That’s fine when it lines up with the dominant media narrative, not at all when it doesn’t. And when he warns of the clear and present danger to religious liberties (not to mention persecution of cultural conservatives), he is definitely not going to receive good press.

Here is just one item from a fiery speech he delivered to a virtual conference.* And that addressed the by-now famous case of the  Little Sisters of the Poor that has dragged out for years and years and years. 

After offering a few of the superlatives admirers of their selfless work extolled them for, Justice Alito said, “Despite this inspiring work, the little sisters have been under unrelenting attack for the better part of a decade.” 

They were “targeted by the prior administration. If they did not knuckle under and violate a tenet of their faith, they faced crippling fines, fines that would likely have forced them to shut down their homes.

The current administration tried to prevent that by adopting a new rule. But the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey supported by 17, under other states, challenged that new rule. Last spring, the Little Sisters won their most recent battle in the Supreme Court, I should add by a vote of seven to two, but the case was sent back to the Court of Appeals. And the Little Sisters legal fight goes on and on.

Justice Alito said “A great many Americans disagree sometimes quite strongly with the religious beliefs of the Little Sisters” and “of course , they have a perfect right to do so. That is not the question. The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs.”

He added, “It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.” The following encapsulated his unremitting defense of religious liberty:

“That is just what has come to pass,” he said. “One of the great challenges for the Supreme Court going forward will be to protect freedom of speech. Although that freedom is falling out of favor in some circles, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second tier constitutional right.”

*Thanks go out to Josh Blackman for transcribing Justice Alito’s remarks.