Alito: The Pandemic Has Resulted In "Unimaginable Restrictions" On Liberty

On Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered a virtual keynote address to the Federalist Society where he express dismay about the “unimaginable restrictions” we are seeing under the guise of public health.

He warned that religious liberty is in danger of becoming a second-class right”.

He pointed to Nevada and how they were “unable to provide any justification for treating casinos more favorably than other houses of worship.”  In that case, the Supreme Court rejected a church’s request to block state restrictions that limited houses of worships to a 50-person limit while casinos were allowed to operate at 50 percent of their fire-code capacities.

He said (transcript from Josh Blackman):

"The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty…
And I think it is an indisputable statement of fact, we have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced, for most of 2020.
Think of all the live events that would otherwise be protected by the right to freedom of speech, live speeches, conferences, lectures, meetings, think of worship services, churches closed on Easter Sunday, synagogues closed for Passover on Yom Kippur War. Think about access to the courts, or the constitutional right to a speedy trial. trials in federal courts have virtually disappeared in many places who could have imagined that the COVID crisis has served as a sort of constitutional stress test. And in doing so it has highlighted disturbing trends that were already present before the virus struck."

He warned that:

"...laws giving an official so much discretion can of course, be abused. And whatever one may think about the COVID restrictions, we surely don't want them to become a recurring feature after the pandemic has passed."