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Justice Alito: Coronavirus has caused 'previously unimaginable' restrictions on liberty

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoAlito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open No thank you, Dr. Fauci COVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries MORE said on Thursday that the coronavirus has caused "previously unimaginable" restrictions on liberty.

Alito gave remarks over a video link for the Federalist Society’s annual meeting, according to Reuters. The conservative justice said he was not trying to downplay the crisis or criticize officials for responding to it. 

“We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020,” Alito said. “The COVID crisis has served as sort of a constitutional stress test.”

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The U.S. is seeing a new uptick in cases, and experts have warned that cases will rise in the colder months as people are now spending more time indoors. New spikes in cases across the country have forced states to reimpose stricter lockdowns on businesses and quarantine requirements on travelers. 

Alito specifically pointed out the impact of the restrictions on religious events, according to Reuters, such as Easter Sunday and Yom Kippur.

“It pains me to say this,” he added, “but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”

Alito also warned that freedom of speech was being threatened, according to Reuters, saying “we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right.” 

He also added that social norms created a list of things that students, professors and employees can no longer say. 

“You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman," he said. “Until very recently that’s what a vast majority of Americans thought. Now it's considered bigotry.”