One week ago conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered a speech in Rome on religious liberty that is being denounced from the left and the right as furthering the Court’s “credibility crisis” while further placing the 72-year-old Bush appointee’s judgment into question.
Alito delivered the keynote address at the University of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Summit gala dinner on July 21. The invitation-only speech at the event hosted by the 153-year-old Catholic institution was not announced in advance to the public, nor even made known until one week later, when the law school posted a news release and full video of the speech. The Supreme Court Justice was not on the schedule of speakers posted online, as Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley, who covers the Supreme Court, noted on social media.
While it’s unclear why the speech was kept secret, American media was quick to latch onto some of Alito’s remarks but did not do a deep dive into the 35 or so minute-long speech, which has raised eyebrows and elicited anger among legal experts, court watchers, and the general public.
CNN and Politico noted Alito lambasted several foreign critics of his majority opinion rescinding five decades of settled U.S. law in the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking the constitutional right to abortion and opening the door to further assaults on liberty and autonomy.
His targets were not opinion writers or pundits, but political leaders of America’s top allies.
Alito mocked the embattled, now former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, robustly declaring, “he paid the price.”
Politico added that Alito “went on to note that President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada ‘are still in office’ despite the salvos they launched at the ruling.”
And he went after Britain’s Prince Harry, falsely characterizing the Duke’s remarks.
“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. “Despite this temptation, I’m not going to talk about cases from other countries.”
In his Rome speech on religious liberty, Justice Alito mocked “foreign leaders” who condemned his opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, including Boris Johnson, Macron, Trudeau, and … Prince Harry.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) July 28, 2022
And while mainstream media focused on some of the low-hanging fruit in his remarks, others who apparently watched his speech, posted by Notre Dame, expressed outrage at what they seem to see as his intolerance of freedom of and from religion, intolerance toward women, and mocking of those who dare criticize his attack on the right to abortion.
NYU professor Barbara Malmet, an artist, activist, triathlete, and producer who has a huge Twitter following, did not hold back in denouncing Alito’s remarks.
“Alito working the room, basking in the laughs. Bearded, in a tux, at a religious liberty speech in Rome. He thinks it’s a fucking joke that women no longer have agency over their own bodies in many states in America because of his own religious beliefs?” she tweeted.
Hours later she again commented, this time writing, “I am still spinning about Alito in Rome at a Notre Dame event, cracking jokes about his devastating abortion ruling while women are reeling here.”
Well-known economist David Rothschild, an avid commentator, attacked Alito and his audience: “Cannot get over mix of arrogance, entitlement, general derision towards American people & democracy that Republican Partisan Hack in Robes Alito showed in speech trashing foreign leaders in Rome to laughing audience of (what I can only assume) are also authoritarian misogynists.”
Novelist, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter Paul Rudnick: “Samuel Alito made a speech in Rome praising the repeal of Roe and condemning the left for a ‘hostility to religion.’ Alito uses his faith to punish women and he wants to not only ban marriage equality but criminalize LGBTQ lives. His religion is a weapon of mass destruction.”
Conservative attorney John David Dyche: “Regardless of one’s view on Dobbs it is hard to see how an arrogant & injudicious Alito ‘spiking the ball’ in political comments at a Notre Dame event in Rome will do anything but further erode public confidence in a court already diminished by a multi-faceted credibility crisis.”
Jezebel editor-in-chief Laura Bassett wrote: “This was Alito’s speech in Rome about ‘religious freedom.’ And it always boggles my mind that to these guys, religious freedom doesn’t apply to anyone but those in their own religion.”
Award-winning investigative reporter Paul Barry: “If Justice Alito wants to claim overturning Roe v Wade was based entirely on law, it’s maybe better not to do it at a conference on religious freedom in Rome.”
Veteran journalist Jim Roberts: “In a speech in Rome, the obviously shameless Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito jokes about the overseas reaction to the Roe v. Wade ruling that he authored.”
Other social media critics were equally angered.
“Who the hell is responsible for holding SCOTUS justices accountable, because there’s no way alito should be in Rome behaving like a GOP congressman.”
“What an undignified, crass, embarrassment to the country this smug, condescending seditionist is. Whoever imagined a (laughably ‘impartial’) SCOTUS Justice, out taking *political* shots at America’s allies? Absolutely unacceptable.”
“Wow! We’re not even pretending that the Supreme Court is not political. Alito is having a good old time in Rome mocking the loss of reproductive rights for US women.”
“Justice Samuel Alito is a dangerous clown who should be nowhere near our SCOTUS. Going to Rome to speak on ‘religious liberty’ as he wages a war on women, and then criticizes our allies?? WTF. He’s an embarrassment to the United States.”
“Christian Dominionism, anyone? With a side of gaslighting and projection, and snark as an aperitif.”