Justice Alito: COVID-19 Causing ‘Unimaginable’ Restrictions on Individual Liberty

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is pictured in a 2010 photo at the Supreme Court building in Washington. (Photo: CNS/Larry Downing, Reuters)

WINDSOR TERRACE — In what could offer a preview of how he might rule if the Supreme Court takes up the Diocese of Brooklyn’s case against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Justice Samuel Alito said Thursday that the pandemic has led government officials to impose “unimaginable” restrictions on individual liberty.

Speaking to the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, Alito said it would be hard to imagine, before COVID-19, that churches would have been empty for Easter and that synagogues would have been vacant for High Holy Days.

“We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020,” Alito told the convention.

The Diocese of Brooklyn filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court on Nov. 9, asking the court to agree to hear its case on First Amendment grounds.

The diocese’s arguments have been rejected by two federal judges and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The diocese charged in its lawsuit that an executive order issued by Cuomo on Oct. 6 to impose strict limits on religious services’ attendance violates religious freedom.

In his remarks to the Federalist Society, Alito also expressed concern that the pandemic serves as “a constitutional stress test” for the nation.

Alito voted in the minority on the Supreme Court this summer when the court upheld regulations in Nevada and California that placed strict limits on the numbers of people who could attend religious services.