In a speech to conservative-leaning legal group The Federalist Society, Justice Samuel Alito spoke out on recent constitutional issues like coronavirus-related restrictions and religious liberty. What were the reactions on both sides?
In a speech to the conservative legal group The Federalist Society, United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was not afraid to tread into hot-button social and political issues, defending the conservative viewpoints.
- In his remarks, Alito criticized the severity and duration of various social restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it was an “indisputable statement of fact” the restrictions have been some of the most severe and extensive the nation has seen.
- In particular, Alito criticized Covid-19 restrictions in Nevada, in which casinos were given more latitude than places of worship.
- Presidential executive orders and the weakened role of Congress was also in Alito’s crosshairs. “Policymaking would shift from narrow-minded elected legislators to an elite group of appointed experts” due to the expanded use of executive orders.
- A number of the issues Alito discussed were centered on the idea of religious liberty, including the Little Sisters of the Poor contraception and Colorado bakery cases. Alito raised the rhetorical question of whether American “society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular beliefs.”
- Alito centered in on the Obergefell decision, which legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. He argued the Supreme Court’s upcoming greatest challenges will be to protect the freedom of speech, particularly those who are opponents of the ruling in particular or of same-sex marriage in general.
- Alito’s statements were met with calls to “reform the Supreme Court”, an issue referred to as “court packing” that became a controversial topic in the closing weeks of the presidential election.
- The New York Times’ coverage centered on criticism of Alito from academia and liberal legal circles, with one liberal activist saying “Justice Alito’s speech Thursday was more befitting a Trump rally than a legal society.”
- CNN’s analysis noted the speech, which it called “ireful”, is an indicator of where the Court, now consisting of six conservative justices, is headed philosophically.
- Online outlet Slate, a leading voice in liberal grievance culture, hypocritically called the speech “grievance-laden.”
- The Daily Beast said Alito “abandoned any semblance of judicial impartiality” in his remarks.
- Fox News’ coverage highlighted the outrage from the left over Justice Alito’s speech.
- National Review contributor Ed Whelan called it a “robust defense” of religion and speech, and noted the condemnation from the left proved Alito’s point.
- The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board argued Alito’s speech was a defense of the court against “progressive attacks on judicial independence”, and said the Federalist Society has wrongly become a bogeyman among progressives.
- Harvard Law Professor, legal conservative, and high-brow Twitter humorist Adrian Vermeule provided brief Twitter commentary.
© Dallas Gerber, 2020