FILE PHOTO: Justice Samuel Alito and his wife Martha-Ann stand during a private ceremony for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. September 23, 2020. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said in a virtual speech on Thursday that the pandemic has resulted in “unimaginable” restrictions on individual liberties, zeroing in on religious freedoms that he said were infringed upon in coronavirus restrictions this year.

In his comments to the Federalist Society, a conference of conservative lawyers, Alito said that COVID-19 restrictions “blatantly discriminated against houses of worship.” While he said he was not trying to diminish the severity of the pandemic, Alito cited the Supreme Court’s decision in July that refused to lift Nevada’s 50-person limit on religious gatherings, even as casinos were allowed to open at 50% capacity. “The state’s message is this: forget about worship and head for the slot machines or maybe a Cirque de Soleil show,” Alito said.

Alito said more broadly that religious liberty in America is less a “cherished freedom” than it is “an excuse for bigotry and can’t be tolerated,” recalling the landmark Supreme Court ruling that upheld a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. He said the ruling fueled intolerance to those who believe marriage should be limited to the union between one man and one woman. “The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs,” Alito said.

Critics of the speech said Alito abandoned “any pretense of impartiality” in his speech, calling it “a grievance-laden tirade against Democrats.” Some legal experts agreed, saying that Alito’s comments were inappropriate and even damaging to the Supreme Court.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Justice Alito Warns of Covid-Era Religious Rights Infringements – Bloomberg Law – 11/12/2020
The 70-year-old justice gave a full-throated defense Thursday night of what he characterized as “second-tier” rights, saying that the pandemic has “highlighted disturbing trends that were already present before the virus struck.”

SCOTUS Justice Alito Is Basically Declaring War on Marriage Equality – Out Magazine – 11/12/2020
In the speech, which was streamed on YouTube, Alito reasserts his objection to the Obegerfell v Hodges decision which secured marriage equality. This came after previously bringing up Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a Supreme Court case in which a baker declined to provide a same-sex couple with a wedding cake.

Brooklyn diocese appeals to Supreme Court over COVID church closures – Catholic News Agency – 11/13/2020
On Thursday, the diocese asked the Supreme Court for relief from the state of New York’s COVID rule limiting attendance at some diocesan churches to just 10 people while allowing some businesses to remain open without capacity limits.In a statement provided to CNA on Friday, the diocese said it is “committed to reopening our churches, safely, and to vindicate our First Amendment rights.”

COVID-19: Cellphone data reveals ‘superspreader’ venues – Medical News Today – 11/12/2020
A model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests that a small number of venue types, such as restaurants, hotels, and religious venues, account for the majority of infections. The model also helps explain why infections disproportionately affect people living in deprived areas […] On the upside, the model indicates that capping the number of people allowed into venues at any one time is more effective and less disruptive than uniformly reducing everyone’s freedom of movement.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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