Alito: US sees growing hostility to religious freedom

By BETHANY BLANKLEY

THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR

(The Center Square) – U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito said there was “growing hostility to religion” in a keynote address he gave highlighting the unique protection of religion in the US Constitution.

“The looming problem is not just indifference to religion, it’s not just ignorance of religion,” he told a Notre-Dame religious freedom summit. Dame of 2022 in Rome last week.

“There is also a growing hostility to religion or at least traditional religious beliefs that are contrary to the new moral code that is gaining momentum in some sectors,” he said in his 37-minute comments published. Thursday.

He said he wondered “what historians could say centuries from now about the contribution of the United States to world civilization. One thing I hope they will say is that our country, after many ups and downs, has finally shown the world that it is possible to have a stable and prosperous society in which people of different faiths live and work together. harmoniously and productively while maintaining their own beliefs. It was truly a historic achievement.

But “no human achievement is ever permanent,” he added, and “we cannot…assume that the religious freedom we enjoy today…will last forever. Religious freedom is fragile.

“Religious freedom is under attack because it is dangerous for those who want complete power,” he said.

While some scholars and politicians argue that religion does not deserve special protection, Justice Alito argues that it does. Hostility to religion in the United States threatens religious freedom, which in turn threatens other fundamental rights it protects.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, he reiterated, which “very often involves a speech, a spoken or written prayer, the recitation of scripture, a homily, a book or religious item. These are all forms of speech. They are also forms of religious exercise.

“If this type of speech can be repressed or punished, what will stop the state from crushing other forms of expression?” He asked.

Justice Alito pointed to attacks on the right to worship and assembly in the United States at a time when the Supreme Court was tasked with deciding cases brought by pastors, priests and rabbis who risked prison sentences s ‘they weren’t closing their churches and synagogues because of governor-ordered lockdowns. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that religious worship closure orders are unconstitutional.

California Governor Gavin Newsom and the Ninth Circuit received specific retribution from the High Court, which ruled that Governor Newsom’s warrants banning religious gatherings and worship were unconstitutional. As a result, the state of California and counties were forced to settle lawsuits, paying out millions of dollars to entities they threatened with jail time and exorbitant fines.

After winning several of these religious freedom cases, Liberty Counsel Founder and President Mat Staver said, “Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID restrictions intentionally discriminated against churches while giving preferential treatment to many businesses and gatherings. secular. The Supreme Court has intervened on several occasions to provide relief. California will never again be able to impose discriminatory restrictions on churches and places of worship. »

Pastor Rob McCoy of Calvary Chapel-God Speak in Thousand Oaks, Calif., says the government has no authority whatsoever to close places of worship. Rulings and settlements in cases other than his own implied that if restrictions were also placed on secular entities and places of worship, the discrimination case would be moot. Religious freedom is not unequal treatment between a church and Walmart, for example, he argues, because the First Amendment specifically protects the free exercise of religion, not the free exercise of shopping.

Mr McCoy told The Center Square at the time of his ongoing legal battles, in which he faced jail time for preaching and defying lockdowns, that more people were coming to his church because it remained open. They came, he said, “because their liberties were taken. Their currents of freedom dried up and they went upstream to find the source of freedom – Jesus. Because freedom, he argues, “is not man’s idea. Freedom is God’s idea.

Highlighting the rights protected by the First Amendment, Justice Alito said, “We are examining the relationship between freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. A religious service in a church, synagogue, mosque or temple is a form of assembly. If a government can ban these gatherings, will it hesitate to ban others?

In a society where “religious freedom is allowed,” Judge Alito said, “it will be more difficult for the state to restrain other speech and other assemblies.”

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