How religion influences Justice Samuel Alito's approach to the law

Eve Edwards May 4, 2022
How religion influences Justice Samuel Alito's approach to the law
Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

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Justice Samuel Alito makes headlines this May as his draft seeking to overturn Roe v Wade sends shockwaves around the United States.

Samuel A. Alito Jr., 72, has served on the Supreme Court since 31 January 2006, having been appointed by former President George W. Bush.

As the debate over Roe v Wade returns to the public discourse, with Justice Alito front and centre, some are curious to know more about Alito’s political and religious views. Here’s what you need to know about how Alito’s faith influences his work.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 07: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito testifies about the court’s budget during a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee March 07, 2019 in Washington, DC. Members of the subcommittee asked the justices about court security, televising oral arguments and codes of ethics for the court. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What religion is Samuel Alito?

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is Roman Catholic. He is one of fifteen Catholics to have served on the Supreme Court since its inception in the late 18th century.

Currently, there are six serving Catholics on the Supreme Court: Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

At the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court in 2006, it was reported by CBS that Alito attended Mass at St. Aloysius in Caldwell, New Jersey, described as a “church very traditional in both its theology and its sacramental practice.” He was also registered at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Roseland, New Jersey.

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How religion has interacted with Justice Alito’s work

When Samuel Alito was appointed as a Supreme Court Justice in 2006, his faith was not at the heart of his work. In fact, a CBS profile on Alito’s new position explains: “He’s never been a professional Catholic, one of those commentators who make their living off the fact of their faith.”

The CBS report defies the notion that Alito earned his stripes at the Justice Department or took his place on the Supreme Court by filling the “Catholic seat.”

But the influence of faith cannot be understated when it comes to positions of power. Last year saw Justice Alito fighting for greater protections for the free exercise of religion. It also saw Alito rule in favour of a Philadelphia Catholic foster care agency that refused to work with same-sex couples. A year prior, in October 2020, Alito and other Justices were deeply critical of the Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for same-sex marriage.

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Samuel Alito’s draft explained

On 2 May 2022, POLITICO obtained an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito which had been circulated inside the court. It could mean the overturning of Roe v Wade.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Alito writes at the start of the draft.

The issue of abortion has been on the radar of conservatives for decades. In fact, the same CBS profile published at the time of Alito’s appointment discussed the Catholic and Republican opinions on abortion. It is described as the “rock” for Catholics such as Alito, “the place beyond which it would not go” defining the left and the right: “When the Democrats became the party of abortion and the Republicans the party of life.”

Over sixteen years later and the issue of abortion, though legal since 1973, remains a firm issue for Alito and other Catholics.

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Eve spends her days writing about everything culture-related. From celebrity news to music, film and television, Eve covers all bases. When she’s not writing you can find her making music or mastering the art of homemade pasta.