A Catholic Supreme Court Justice who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized U.S. abortions, worries about religious intolerance.
Justice Samuel Alito, whose leaked draft opinion in a Mississippi case, hinted the high court would end a perceived right to abortions. A July 21 speech was his first public appearance since the Supreme Court made abortion an issue for states to determine.
In his 37-minute keynote address to the 2022 Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit in Rome he said religion is under attack around the world.
“The problem that looms is not just indifference to religion, it’s not just ignorance about religion,” Alito explained. “There’s also growing hostility to religion or at least the traditional religious beliefs that are contrary to the new moral code that is ascendant in some sectors.
He said he often wonders how history will view the United States and its contribution to world civilization.
“One thing I hope they will say is that our country, after a lot of fits and starts, and ups and downs, eventually showed the world that it is possible to have a stable and successful society in which people of diverse faiths live and work together harmoniously and productively while still retaining their own beliefs,” Alito said.
The justice added that the right granted Americans to enjoy religious liberty has been “truly a historic accomplishment.”
Alito considers hostility to religion and religious freedom a slippery slope that threatens other fundamental rights.
“The exercise of religion very often involves speech, a spoken or written prayer, the recitation of Scripture, a homily, a religious book or article, these are all forms of speech they are also forms of religious exercise,” Alito added. “If this sort of speech can be suppressed or punished, what is to stop the state from crushing other forms of expression?”
He noted a relationship between freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Religious services is a form of assembly, he said, adding that if government can ban church, synagogue or mosque assemblies it may try to outlaw other assemblies.
“On the other hand, if religious liberty is allowed, it will be harder for the state to restrict other speech and other assemblies,” Alito said. He added that the Constitution is very clear in protecting religion.
Alito further reflected on religious persecution around the world in places like Nigeria, Egypt and India. The most prominent example of religious hostility is China, the justice believes.
“During my lifetime, the People’s Republic of China did its best to eradicate religion completely,” the justice remarked. “And yet it failed, just as the Roman emperors who spent centuries trying to destroy Christianity failed.”