Alito ‘not surprised’ about reaction to comments about virus restrictions

Stefani Reynolds

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is defending the controversial statements he made regarding coronavirus restrictions late last year, saying he “was not surprised by the reaction.”

In a USA Today article published on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of his confirmation to the Supreme Court, Alito said the parts of his speech that drew controversy had been taken from his recent opinions, with some repeated verbatim.

“Virtually every substantive point in the Federalist Society speech was taken from one of my published opinions or an opinion I joined,” the justice, nominated by President George W. Bush, said in a statement to the newspaper.

During a speech to the Federalist Society in November, Alito said: “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.”

Alito at the time argued coronavirus restrictions had become a “constitutional stress test.” In particular, the justice bemoaned the effect that restrictions have had on religious events.

“I’m a judge, not a policymaker,” Alito told USA Today, adding that he was not criticizing policies, but pointing to the questions they raised.

Alito has erred on the side of supporting religious freedom, USA Today notes, recently writing a decision that found religious schools are exempt from the majority of employment discrimination claims.

“I see him as a justice who is committed to a vision of the judicial role — who sees that role as a limited one,” a former clerk for Alito, David Moore, told USA Today.

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