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Sat, Jun

Caught on Tape, Alito Exposed as 'Crusader for Christian Nationalism'

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CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM - Judicial reform advocates on Monday demanded that the U.S. Senate take decisive action to hold Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito accountable for his clear display of bias and conflicts of interest, after a documentary filmmaker released audio clips she had recorded of the justice discussing ideological battles in the U.S. he said "can't be compromised."

Shared exclusively with Rolling Stone, tapes recorded by filmmaker Lauren Windsor at the Supreme Court Historical Society's annual dinner on June 3 include comments from Alito about the need to return the country to "a place of godliness" and suggesting that he sympathizes with right-wing activists who believe they can't "negotiate with the left."

Windsor attended the annual dinner, which is frequented by right-wing activists who are able to interact with the justices at the event, using her real name and as a dues-paying member of the society, which costs $150 per year to join. The liberal filmmaker asked questions of Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts "as though she were a religious conservative," Rolling Stone reported.

Alito replied, "I agree with you," when Windsor said people who are conservative Christians need "to return our country to a place of godliness." He said Windsor was "probably right" when she said, "I don't know that we can negotiate with the left in the way that needs to happen for the polarization to end. I think that it's a matter of, like, winning."

"One side or the other is going to win," agreed the justice. "I mean, there can be a way of working—a way of living together peacefully, but it's difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can't be compromised. It's not like you can split the difference."

In her response, Sarah Lipton-Lubet, president for the Take Back the Court Action Fund, referred to the display of an upside-down American flag at Alito's house in early 2021—which the justice said was an action taken solely by his wife. 

"Justice Alito can hardly blame his wife this time," said Lipton-Lubet. "In case it wasn't glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention, Alito is now on tape declaring himself a political crusader for Christian nationalism."

Progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have demanded in recent weeks that the Senate Judiciary Committee open a formal investigation into the display of the upside-down flag and another flag that read, "Appeal to Heaven"—both symbols that have been embraced by the "Stop the Steal" movement that's baselessly claimed President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory was "stolen" from former President Donald Trump. 

Advocates have said the Alito family's embrace of the symbols is grounds for Alito's recusal from cases involving the 2020 election and Trump, and Judiciary Committee leaders last month called on Roberts to back the demand—but Alito wrote to the Senate and the House on May 29, saying he would not recuse. 

Alito has also been rebuked by progressives following reporting by ProPublicalast year that showed he and fellow right-wing Justice Clarence Thomas both accepted luxury travel and other gifts from conservative groups and operatives who had business before the court. 

Now that Alito has been heard aligning himself with right-wing zealots who aim to "return" the U.S. to "godliness," Lipton-Lubet said, Democratic leaders must take further action against the justice. 

"If the sheer brazenness of his comments doesn't spur Democratic senators to do something besides jot off a sternly worded letter, it's hard to imagine what will," she said. 

As the story broke on Monday, more than 60 civil society groups joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote to the Judiciary Committee, reiterating the need for an urgent investigation into Alito's various ties to right-wing groups and interests. 

"Given Justice Alito's dismissive and combative response and his refusal to recuse, as well as Justice Thomas' ongoing ethics failures, further action is needed to protect our democracy, prevent future violations of this nature, and restore public confidence in the judiciary," the groups wrote. "These abuses of power, left unchecked, have already become more frequent and more severe, further corroding the public's faith in our judicial system and weakening our democracy."

The Leadership Conference said the new reporting "further demonstrates the need for action."

"These patterns of behavior raise serious questions about the impartiality and integrity of our nation’s most powerful court and the justices who make decisions impacting our civil and human rights," the group said. 

At Rolling Stone, Tessa Stuart and Tim Dickinson wrote that "the justice's unguarded comments highlight the degree to which Alito makes little effort to present himself as a neutral umpire calling judicial balls and strikes, but rather as a partisan member of a hard-right judicial faction that's empowered to make life-altering decisions for every American."

The recent revelations about Alito come as the court is expected to soon rule on whether Trump has immunity from criminal prosecution regarding his federal election interference case; a case regarding whether defendants who face charges related to the January 6, 2021 attempted insurrection can be charged with obstruction; and a case regarding the potential restriction on use of mifepristone, a medication used for abortions. 

Windsor told Rolling Stone that the court's secret proceedings in cases that affect the rights of Americans drove her to go undercover at the annual dinner last week.

"Because the Supreme Court is shrouded in secrecy," she said, "and they're refusing to submit to any accountability in the face of overwhelming evidence of serious ethics breaches, I think that it's justified to take these types of measures."

(Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was published.).

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