Speaking to a group of Catholic lawyers in New Jersey this week, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said that America is entering a period when its commitment to religious liberty is being tested by those who oppose traditional values.
Alito told the lawyers about a prediction, which he made in his dissent in the Supreme Court's landmark same-sex marriage case, about opposition to the decision being used to "vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots."
"We are seeing this is coming to pass," he said at the gathering sponsored by Advocati Christi, a group of Catholic lawyers and judges, according to The Associated Press. "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," he quoted Bob Dylan's song. "A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs."
He added, "We are likely to see pitched battles in courts and Congress, state legislatures and town halls. But the most important fight is for the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans. It is up to all of us to evangelize our fellow Americans about the issue of religious freedom."
Alito, who was appointed as a Supreme Court justice by President George W. Bush in 2006, recalled that he felt John F. Kennedy's election as the first Roman Catholic president in 1960 "had lifted me up from the status of second-class American."
Alito earlier warned that America's constitutional structure was facing "unprecedented challenges" in recent years, adding that the constitutional principle of religious freedom is in "greater danger."
Talking about the impact that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made on the bench, Alito said at the Federalist Society's 2016 National Lawyers Convention that the constitutional principle of separation of powers was facing challenges.
"When Nino [Scalia's nickname] spoke to students he would often ask them what is most important about the Constitution and, more times then not, the answer would refer to the Bill of Rights," Alito explained. "Nino would say, 'Wrong. What is most important is the structure, the separation of powers at the federal level and the division of sovereignty between federal government and the states.' Human rights guarantees are worthless without a governmental structure to protect them."
However, Alito stressed that "in recent years, we have seen unprecedented challenges to our constitutional structure" as "the executive has also claimed the power to make out-in-out changes in the laws enacted by Congress."
Alito also said that "freedom of religion is in greater danger."
"I am reminded of a song by the latest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature [Bob Dylan] — 'It's not dark yet, but it's getting there,'" he said, and criticized the liberal intolerance that was being displayed on many college campuses around the country. "Consider this, Justice Robert Jackson famously wrote that 'If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism or religion,'" Alito quoted.
"But on college campuses, both public and private, a new orthodoxy rules," he continued. "Suppose a student were to test Justice Jackson's proposition today by wearing an article of attire supporting a political candidate who is unpopular among the students and the professors, by proclaiming that the United States is a great and good country, and by expressing certain conditional religious beliefs. How would that go over?"