WASHINGTON (CN) — Justice Samuel Alito derided foreign leaders who were critical of the high court’s watershed decision to throw out the federal right to abortion in the United States during a speech on religious liberty in Rome, Italy, last week.
Alito said he was hesitant to criticize decisions from foreign courts until he wrote what he said was the only Supreme Court decision in history that has been “lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law.” The reference is to the court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Woman’s Health Organization that overturned Roe v. Wade.
“One of these was former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but he paid the price,” the Bush appointee said.
The conservative justice also called out French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for their comments. Alito joked about a recent United Nations speech by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.
“What really wounded me, what really wounded me was when the Duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations and seemed to compare the decision — whose name may not be spoken — with the Russian attack on Ukraine,” Alito said to laughter from the audience.
Alito said all of this made him tempted to comment on the law in other countries but he decided to hold his tongue.
“Well, despite this temptation, I'm not going to talk about cases from other countries,” Alito said.
But foreign leaders were not the only ones to face Alito’s ire during the speech. He took a jab at some of his colleagues too. In a hypothetical concerning lawyers wearing different headwear ranging from a Packers hat to a hijab in a courtroom, Alito said some of his colleagues would have trouble accommodating the free exercise of religion while generally barring headwear in courts.
“For me, the Constitution of the United States provides a clear answer,” Alito said. “Some of my colleagues are not so sure, but for me, the text tells the story the Constitution protects the free exercise of religion.”
It is not clear what specific case Alito might be alluding to here.
Alito’s comments were made during a religious liberty summit hosted by Notre Dame. Despite his aside to discuss foreign leaders, most of Alito’s speech was focused on the need to expand religious liberty at home and abroad. This comes after a term where the court handed down several consequential pro-religion rulings.
“Ultimately, if we're going to win the battle to protect religious freedom, in an increasingly secular society, we will need more than positive law,” Alito said.
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