Why Samuel Alito’s 'militant Christianity' is a 'problem for the rest of us': journalist
On July 21, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gave a keynote address at the Notre Dame Law School/Religious Liberty Summit’s gala dinner in Rome, Italy, where he mocked and ridiculed European critics of the Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Alito made it abundantly clear that he couldn’t care less what European officials think of that ruling, which ended abortion as a national right in the United States and allows individual states to ban abortion if they choose.
Journalist Linda Greenhouse is highly critical of Alito’s Religious Liberty Summit speech in a guest essay/op-ed published by the New York Times on August 11. Greenhouse has no problem with the fact that Alito is religious; the problem, she emphasizes, is the disdain Alito shows for those who aren’t.
Greenhouse describes Alito’s “snarky” speech as a “victory lap” following Roe’s demise and “a call to arms on behalf of religion.” Alito told the crowd in Rome, “The challenge for those who want to protect religious liberty in the United States, Europe and other similar places is to convince people who are not religious that religious liberty is worth special protection.”
“Justice Alito’s Notre Dame speech still merits close examination for what it reveals about the assumptions built into his worldview,” Greenhouse argues. “What does it mean, for example, to assert that it is ‘people who are not religious’ who need to be persuaded that religion is worthy of special treatment? Do all religiously observant people naturally believe that religion merits more protections than other values? There’s scant evidence for that; in any event, that has not been our law, at least not until recently.”
Alito, Greenhouse writes, is openly contemptuous of law professors who don’t share his views on religion and government.
“Justices and legal scholars alike have struggled for decades to identify the right balance for religion within a pluralistic society, an effort Justice Alito reduced to a cartoonish either/or,” Greenhouse notes. “Even were I willing to cut him some slack for loose talk among friends — I don’t know whether he was aware that Notre Dame would post the video online — I would still find the narrowness of his vision deeply disturbing. He offered no acknowledgment, none, of the harm that can occur when religion is elevated above all other claims to recognition and respect.”
Greenhouse continues, “For example, in the aftermath of his opinion in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, tens of thousands of women have never received the contraception coverage to which the Affordable Care Act entitled them because they work for employers with objections to particular forms of birth control. His opinion in 2020 extending the so-called ministerial exception to cover non-ministerial employees of religious organizations stripped those employees of the protection of federal laws that prohibit job discrimination. And, of course, the very opinion he bragged about to his audience in Rome, an opinion that as I have recently explained was grounded in religious doctrine rather than constitutional law, took no account of its devastating impact on women.”
Alito, according to Greenhouse, is a defender of “militant Christianity” — and the civil liberties of other Americans are suffering as a result of it.
“His religion does not reside in the quiet recesses of his home or chambers,” Greenhouse warns. “His is religion on the march. And that’s the problem the rest of us face now.”
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