Alito Decries 'Hostility to Religion' in First Public Remarks Since Abortion Decision

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(Bloomberg) -- US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ridiculed foreign leaders who criticized his opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion as he made his first public remarks since the court issued the ruling last month.

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Speaking in Rome at a religious-liberty summit sponsored by Notre Dame Law School, Alito also decried what he called “growing hostility to religion.”

In his 35-minute remarks, delivered on July 21 but made public Thursday on the school’s website, Alito listed outgoing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prince Harry, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as leaders who had denounced the ruling.

“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said.

“One of these was former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but he paid the price,” he quipped, drawing laughter from the audience.

Johnson, who announced his resignation July 7 amid a succession of scandals, had called the Supreme Court ruling a “big step backwards.”

Alito then sarcastically pointed to Prince Harry’s speech at the United Nations July 18, when the prince said it had been a “painful year” and mentioned the “rolling back of constitutional rights” in the US.

“What really wounded me was when the Duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations and seemed to compare the decision whose name may not be spoken with the Russian attack on Ukraine,” Alito said.

Alito said the decline of faith in the Western world had left believers vulnerable to discrimination.

“The problem that looms is not just indifference to religion, it’s not just ignorance about religion,” he said. “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.”

The Supreme Court last month bolstered religious rights in a pair of rulings. With Alito in the majority, the court gave public school teachers and other staff more freedom to pray in public spaces and beefed up the rights of parents to use taxpayer funds for religious education.

Alito, a Roman Catholic, has been perhaps the court’s most ardent advocate of religious rights, at times casting believers as aggrieved for abiding by their faith. He said in his latest remarks that Christians had been persecuted for centuries, including in Rome’s Colosseum, where “who knows how many” were “torn apart by wild beasts.”

Alito, sporting a beard he doesn’t have when the justices are on the bench, said religious liberty “promotes domestic tranquility.” He argued that advocates need to make the case for preserving protections against discrimination.

“Unless the people can be convinced that robust religious liberty is worth protecting, it will not endure,” he said.

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