Justice Samuel Alito draws media’s ire with ‘controversial’ remarks on religious liberty

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered a virtual speech to the Federalist Society on Thursday that warned of the increasing dangers posed to the fundamental rights of religious liberty and free speech. In recent months, it’s come in part, he said, from coronavirus-related restrictions, but also from left-leaning advocates with a decreasing tolerance for opposing viewpoints.

The Supreme Court justice’s polarizing remarks left Democrats and many in the media livid — and Politico‘s rundown of what the outlet called an “unusually inflammatory” speech from Alito was just one of many examples.

Ironically, it seemed to prove the jurist’s point. Calling Alito’s talk “controversial,” even “caustic” and hypocritical, Politico seemed to ignore the crux of the points he was making: that Constitutional freedoms must be cherished and defended.

Tolerance in short supply

A rough transcript of Alito’s speech provided by the libertarian-leaning outlet Reason showed that his remarks were anything but what was described by the Democrat-aligned media.

Instead, the justice gave a worthwhile warning and defense of our rights that, at least in some circles, appear to be under sustained attack.

“Unfortunately, tolerance for opposing views is now in short supply in many law schools, and in the broader academic community,” he said, according to the transcript. “When I speak with recent law school graduates, what I hear over and over is that they face harassment and retaliation if they say anything that departs from the law school orthodoxy.”

Alito went on to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s reaction to it, which he said has amounted to “previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.”

He didn’t want to downplay the severity of the virus or even weigh in on the merits of the various restrictions, Alito said, but he maintained: “I think it is an indisputable statement of fact, we have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”

Liberties under attack

Chief among Alito’s concerns were restrictions imposed on freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion in the name of the coronavirus. The justice cautioned, albeit in a careful manner, about the executive overreach seen in some locales, and even extended the sentiment to a broader issue: what he characterized as an assault from the left on religious liberty.

“For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry, and it can’t be tolerated, even when there is no evidence that anybody has been harmed,” he said, according to Reason.

Alito added, “You can’t say that marriage is the union between one man and one woman. Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.”

Protecting freedom and liberty is vital, Alito concluded, lest the ideas be snuffed out so that even the courts can no longer defend or save them. It’s a sentiment those on the left would do well to take to heart.

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