The very idea of religious freedom is under threat, according to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. On Wednesday, the justice addressed an audience at a Catholic lawyers’ association event in New Jersey, declaring that traditional religious Americans need to “evangelize” their fellow Americans on this crucial issue.
“We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls,” Alito said, according to the Associated Press (AP). “But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom.”
The justice quoted his own dissent in the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the country. He predicted opposition to the decision would be used to “vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots.”
“A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs,” Alito declared.
The speech was sponsored by Advocati Christi, a group of Catholic lawyers and judges who seek to “provide an opportunity for lawyers to learn about the Catholic faith and Catholic social teaching and to help them integrate these into their life and practice.”
Alito’s 45-minute speech, which mentioned the Founding Fathers and cited 19th century French writer Alexis de Tocqueville, touched on hostility faced by Roman Catholics in the U.S. He also mentioned his joy as a young man in witnessing the election of John F. Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic president, in 1960.
Alito’s words strike home in an age where the very words religious freedom are often put in scare quotes. Many outlets denounce religious freedom legislation as a smokescreen for bigotry against LGBT people, and there has been a firestorm of controversy between LGBT activists and those who champion religious freedom.
An LGBT group in Ohio recently announced plans to target churches to force them to offer property for a homosexual wedding, Christian business owners have been fined and forced out of business for refusing to serve gay weddings, a northeastern state applied transgender non-discrimination protections to churches, and a Christian preschool has closed in anticipation of government intrusion.
Alito is correct — religious Americans, especially those who uphold traditional sexual morality, have to convince their fellows to care about religious freedom, and it looks like that will be an uphill battle.