Justice Alito Warns Catholic Seminarians Of Dire Future For Religious Liberty

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito warned graduates of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Wednesday that a concentrated effort to erode “traditional moral values” could confine Catholics and other religious believers to the margins of society.

Alito, who participated in the commencement exercises with Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, told the graduating seminarians that new developments in law and culture have generated hostility to orthodox religious adherents, according to local press.

“I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools,” Alito said, quoting from his dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that granted legal status to same-sex marriages.

Alito has made similar remarks in other public forums. Alito told the Federalist Society’s 2017 National Lawyers Convention that religious liberty was one of the three most consequential issues facing the high court.

“It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there,” he said, in a nod to Nobel-laureate Bob Dylan’s 1997 song “Not Dark Yet.” He went on to discuss a Washington state law which requires individual pharmacists to distribute contraception over their private religious objections. The Court declined to take up a challenge to the law in June, which drew a sharp dissent from Alito. That dissent was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas.

“The bottom line is clear,” Alito wrote. “Washington would rather have no pharmacy than one that doesn’t toe the line on abortifacient emergency contraceptives.”

St. Charles Borromeo is a Catholic seminary in Philadelphia, Penn. Though Alito is originally from New Jersey, he has spent much of life in Philadelphia and strongly identifies with the city. Alito himself is one of the Court’s four Catholic justices.

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