Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered an unusually inflammatory public speech Thursday night, starkly warning about the threats he contends religious believers face from advocates for gay and abortion rights, as well as public officials responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to a virtual conference of conservative lawyers, the George W. Bush appointee made no direct comment on the recent election, the political crisis relating to President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his defeat or litigation on the issue pending at the Supreme Court.
However, Alito didn’t hold back on other controversial subjects, even suggesting that the pressure Christians face surrounding their religious beliefs is akin to the strictures the U.S. placed on Germany and Japan after World War II.
Alito abandoned any pretense of impartiality in his speech, a grievance-laden tirade against Democrats, the progressive movement, and the United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alito’s targets included COVID-related restrictions, same-sex marriage, abortion, Plan B, the contraceptive mandate, LGBTQ non-discrimination laws, and five sitting Democratic senators.
Ironically, Alito began his pre-recorded address by condemning an effort by the U.S. Judicial Conference to forbid federal judges from being members of the Federalist Society. He then praised, by name, the four judges who spearheaded a successful effort to defeat the ban—or, as Alito put it, who “stood up to an attempt to hobble the debate that the Federalist Society fosters.”
Alito is delivering the keynote speech at this year’s Federalist Society convention. He’s using the occasion to defend the group, claiming its members face “harassment and retaliation for saying anything that departs from the law school orthodoxy.”
Alito attacks the Judicial Conference for attempting to forbid federal judges from being members of the Federalist Society, and praises the conservative judges who successfully fought the ban.
UHHH, Alito seems to be criticizing governors for issuing “sweeping restrictions” in response to COVID-19. Also criticizes progressives and New Dealers for putting too much faith in scientists and experts.
Alito says this rule by executive fiat is “where the law has been going for some time—in the direction of government by executive officials who are thought to implement policies by scientific expertise.” Suggests this is a dangerous trend.
Whoa, Alito is VERY critical of COVID restrictions and “rule by experts.”
Then he says: “in certain corners, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”
He condemns “the protracted campaign against the Little Sisters of the Poor.” Calls it an “unrelenting attack.”
Alito now condemns Washington State for requiring pharmacies to carry Plan B, “which destroys an embryo after fertilization.”
He also criticizes the Colorado civil rights commissioner in Masterpiece Cakeshop who said “freedom of religion” can be used for discrimination.
Alito criticizes Harvard Law Prof. Mark Tushnet for this notorious blog post, and quotes from it extensively. Says “it’s not dark yet but it’s getting there,” quoting Bob Dylan.
Now Alito is criticizing the Nevada governor for giving casinos a higher COVID attendance cap than churches.
He moves onto criticizing the federal judge who suspended the rule that required people to pick up abortion pills in person.
Yikes. Alito condemns Obergefell, the same-sex marriage decision, and says it has led to censorship of people who believe marriage is “a union of one man and one woman.” Says freedom of speech is “falling out of favor in some circles.”
Alito brings up a brief filed with the Supreme Court by five Democratic senators in a gun case warning that the court is becoming too political. He calls the brief “an affront to the Constitution and the rule of law.”
Without saying the words “court-packing,” Alito warns about Democratic efforts to “bully” the court with threats to “restructure” it. Tells a story about a foreign judge threatened with death if he didn’t rule for the government.
Alito is done.
That was easily the most political speech I’ve ever seen delivered by a Supreme Court justice. Wow. Same-sex marriage, guns, abortion, contraception, persecution of the Federalist Society … he really squeezed it all in there. Yikes.
Probably the strangest aspect of Alito’s speech, other than his attack on COVID restrictions, was his claim that people who oppose same-sex marriage get called “bigots” and this somehow threatens freedom of speech. But how?! Public criticism is not censorship! He knows this!
Here is Justice Alito complaining that the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision has crushed the free speech of anti-LGBTQ advocates.
Here’s Justice Alito complaining about this amicus brief filed by @SenWhitehouse, @SenBlumenthal, @maziehirono, @SenatorDurbin, and @SenGillibrand, and warning of Democrats’ threats to “restructure” the Supreme Court.
And here is Justice Alito defending Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Jacks Phillips for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. Alito notes that the couple was offered a free cake elsewhere, then supported by “celebrity chefs.”
As @danepps pointed out, Alito inadvertently made a very strong argument for court reform this evening. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/11/alito-federalist-society-speech-insane.html @Slate