Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito sparked controversy last month for delivering a highly partisan speech during which he asserted that religious freedom is under assault.

“You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman,” Alito remarked during a Nov. 12 speech to the Federalist Society, a far-right legal group. “Until very recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now it’s considered bigotry.”

Alito also attacked the various orders that have been issued in many states curbing large gatherings, including those at houses of worship, during the coronavirus pandemic. He called these restrictions an attack on personal liberty.

The right-wing jurist mentioned several recent Supreme Court cases. He criticized the legal attempts to compel the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who operate a chain of nursing homes, to tolerate birth control in their health care plan. He also implied that the owners of small businesses should be permitted to refuse services to people who offend their religious beliefs.

“It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right,” Alito said.

The speech was unusual for its highly partisan nature and came under fire almost immediately. Among the critics was Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United.

Laser told Bloomberg News that the speech was “inappropriate and deeply disturbing.”

Added Laser, “[Alito] signaled how he will vote on issues that are almost certain to come before the court, such as coronavirus public health restrictions on both secular and religious gatherings, and religious freedom being misused to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people and others. He’s dropped even the pretense of the impartiality that judges are obligated to have.”


Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.

Join the Fight and Donate Today