WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito this week sounded the alarm about the restrictions imposed due to the coronovirus epidemic, saying he should not become a “recurring feature after the epidemic has passed”.
“The epidemic has put a previously unimaginable ban on personal liberty,” Alito said in an address to the conservative Federalist Society on Thursday, which is holding its annual conference almost because of the epidemic.
Alito served as the US Attorney for New Jersey and was a judge for the Third Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals before joining the Supreme Court.
Alito said he was “not reducing the severity of the virus’s threat to public health” or saying anything about “whether any of these restrictions represent good public policy”.
He warned against his words “twisted or misunderstood.” Nevertheless, his remarks were troubling to some, who were holding unusually political strings for justice in the country’s highest court.
But he said it is an “indisputable statement of fact” that “we have never seen sanctions as severe, comprehensive and prolonged as most people have experienced in the 2020s.”
“Anyone who can think of COVID sanctions, we certainly don’t want them to be a recurring feature after the epidemic has passed,” said Alito, who was nominated to court by President George W. Bush.
Alito was particularly significant in two cases earlier this year where the court sided with the states, banning the size of religious ceremonies, citing the coronovirus epidemic. In both cases, the court split 5-4 in allowing Chief Justice John Roberts to continue with siding with the court liberals.
In May, the High Court dismissed an emergency appeal by a California church challenging attendance limits at worship services. In July a Nevada church rejected such a challenge. Alito said that the sanctions in both cases were “discriminatory with houses of worship” and warned that “religious freedom is in danger of becoming the right of another class.”
Both cases came to court before Justice Ruth Beder Ginsburg’s death in September. The substitution of liberal justice by conservative Justice Amy Connie Barrett may change how the court may appear on similar cases in the future. The court is currently a case related to the Catholic Church and is limited to in-person services in New York.
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