U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is warning that religious liberty is in peril around the world partly because of the waning influence of religion itself.
“It is hard to convince people that religious liberty is worth defending if they don’t think that religion is a good thing that deserves protection,” Alito said last week at the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit in Rome.
The challenge for those who want to protect religious liberty in the United States and elsewhere is to “convince people who are not religious that religious liberty is worth special protection,” he said.
“That will not be easy to do,” Alito added.
Alito’s comments were reported by the Notre Dame School of Law, which hosted the summit.
“If we look around the world today, we see that people of many different faiths face persecution because of religion,” Alito said while mentioning Iraq, Nigeria, Egypt and China. “… Religious liberty is under attack in many places because it is dangerous to those who want to hold complete power. It also probably grows out of something dark and deep in the human DNA – the tendency to distrust and dislike people who are not like ourselves.”
Alito referenced the many ways society benefits when religious liberty is embraced, including its promotion of charitable works, domestic tranquility and diversity in thought. Religious liberty at its best, he said, allows different types of people to live together harmoniously.
He cited leaders from history who were driven by their religious beliefs, including Martin Luther King Jr.
“If religious liberty is protected, religious leaders and other men and women of faith will be able to speak out on social issues,” Alito said. “People with deep religious convictions may be less likely to succumb to dominating ideologies or trends, and more likely to act in accordance with what they see as true and right. Civil society can count on them as engines of reform.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.