Remarks last week by Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, delivered remotely to the Federalist Society at its annual National Lawyers Convention, have sent liberal Supreme Court observers into conniptions. What was Alito’s sin? The George W. Bush-nominated judge dared defend religious freedom and other liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, a posture that in a previous era would have been widely welcomed by the very critics who now are savaging Alito.
The Washington, D.C.-based publication Politico joined the anti-Alito bandwagon. A November 13 piece reporting on the justice’s speech, written by Josh Gerstein, called the remarks “inflammatory” under a headline that labelled them “politically charged.” In fact, there was nothing “political” about Alito’s speech; unless, of course, it is considered unacceptably “political” to draw attention to the important responsibility the High Court has “to protect freedom of speech” and other civil liberties.
Alito also came under fire from the Left for stating the obvious – that the coronavirus “pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” He observed that the COVID-driven and liberty-restrictive environment in which the country now finds itself was not simply the result of a sudden and unforeseen emergency, but rather the consequence of a number of “disturbing trends” that had been present long before the pandemic broke. It was this observation by the 70-year old associate justice that seems to have been the flashpoint raising the hackles of liberals, some of whom flew off into La La Land with their reactions.
For example, University of Baltimore law professor Kim Wehle is reported to have declared that Alito’s remarks were something that awakened her from a “vampire dream” because they were so “unscrupulously biased, political, and even angry” (where do law schools find these people?). Most reactions by leftists to Alito’s remarks were not as silly as Wehle’s, but they were still upset by the nerve his remarks touched.
The justice’s comments harkened back to a day when standing firm against infringements on speech, especially religious speech — and on the free exercise of religion — were considered principles to be staunchly, if not unquestioningly, defended by liberal minds everywhere, including in law schools. No more.
As Alito noted, in recent years, especially in the wake of Supreme Court decisions delving into deeply held social beliefs such as same-sex marriage, it has become verboten to publicly express opinions or ideas at odds therewith. In other words, to openly express support for the concept of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, or that abortion is immoral, now is considered bigotry. Discrimination against religion, especially traditional church-based religion, in the wake of COVID-inspired government mandates, has manifested itself beyond simply intolerance of religious speech. Nevada, for example, prohibited church services for more than 50 parishioners even as it allowed unlimited numbers of gamblers to attend casinos. That this struck Alito as arbitrary and problematic now has earned him the unbridled enmity of the Left.
Animosity toward Alito and other Republican-nominated justices, now numbering six out of the nine serving on the Court, is nothing new. A number of prominent Democrat senators, not least among which is Minority Leader (and majority-leader wannabe) Chuck Schumer, have in recent months openly threatened negative legislative action against them if they fail to toe the liberal line on such hot-button issues as abortion (but not, of course, cases supporting the Second Amendment).
Alito last week warned of the danger such open threats by the legislative branch of government pose to the independence of the judicial branch and the High Court in particular – also something the Left in the past defended against. Now, however, the fact that a Supreme Court Justice has the audacity to speak out against threats against the court by Democrat leaders in the Congress, becomes proof that such “reforms” are necessary. Such is the Bizarro World in which we live.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s.