For the last several months, we’ve been treated to breathless articles explaining how Amy Coney Barrett is both a radical handmaid as well as Aunt Lydia and the turncoat female commander of the Gileadean army. The Democrats were careful not to turn the Barrett hearings into a disastrous repeat of the Kavanaugh debacle (which probably cost them the Senate), but they still managed to send their message loud and clear: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Barrett, senator after senator intoned, was going to screw Americans out of their healthcare and force them into back alleys where they would die at the hands of butchers.
With this in mind, it is with some amusement that I observed lawyers and alleged legal experts melting down at the news that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had given a speech in which he warned that the progressive Left had no respect for religious liberty or freedom of speech (which, as it happens, is true.) When progressives accuse a conservative of being a fascist gender turncoat, they are giving the American people fair warning. When a conservative observes what is visibly unfolding before our eyes, he is “politicizing the court.” Here’s how Politico described it:
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.
“Is our country going to follow that course?” Alito asked. “For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and can’t be tolerated, even when there is no evidence that anybody has been harmed. … The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs.”
Alito argued that some recent Supreme Court decisions, including the landmark ruling upholding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, fueled intolerance to those who believe marriage should be limited to unions between one man and one woman.
“Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now, it’s considered bigotry,” he said.
Alito also seemed to minimize the significance of a refusal of a Colorado baker to produce a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The justice noted that the couple involved “was given a free cake by another bakery” and that the high-profile standoff prompted “celebrity chefs” to come to their defense.
Justices often include pointed, even barbed, language in their opinions. Indeed, Alito regularly does so, and many of his remarks Thursday night echoed similar comments he’s made in caustic dissents. Still, it is uncommon for a justice to weigh in on hot-button topics like abortion or gay rights in speaking appearances open to the press or public.
During his half-hour-long speech, Alito warned that not only is freedom of belief increasingly under threat, but freedom of expression is as well.
“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,” he said.
Alito’s analysis is only controversial if you haven’t been listening to what progressives have been saying, out loud, in public. Progressives have been loudly rejecting the very legal concept of religious liberty since Obergefell (and quietly held those views to begin with.) Obviously, Christians cannot expect progressive jurists to uphold rights they believe to be invalid at best and an excuse for bigotry at worst. Alito is simply pointing out something that becomes apparent every time religious liberty comes before the courts at any level, including the Supreme Court.
Alito is right. Progressives are wrong—and they’re angry at him for saying the quiet part out loud.