Posts tagged with "‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag"

Jewish senators alarmed by Alito’s pro-Christian agenda

June 17, 2024

Jewish Democratic senators are alarmed by conservative Justice Samuel Alito’s sympathy for basing government on Christian principles—something he expressed at a Supreme Court gala when he endorsed the idea of returning the nation to a place of “godliness,” reports NBC News.

Democratic senators, including several Jewish lawmakers, fear Alito’s majority opinions in several high-profile cases—such as the Dobbs decision, which overturned the right to abortion—were driven by his religious views.

And they are not buying Alito’s claim that he had nothing to do with and couldn’t prevent the flying of an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, a symbol of the Christian nationalist movement, at his New Jersey beach house.

Senate Democrats say members of the Supreme Court have a right to religious freedom; but warn that when they try to impose their religious views on others, it crosses a line.

A Jewish Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on Alito said he is pushing a sectarian religious agenda on the court.

“I don’t think there’s really any doubt. I don’t think Alito and [conservative Justice Clarence] Thomas are being shy. They have a view of the world, and they’re trying to establish an official religion, and a specific denomination,” the lawmaker said.

Five of the court’s conservative justices are Catholic, and a sixth, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was raised as a Catholic but also attends Episcopal services.

Senator Ben Cardin (D-Marland), who is Jewish, said it’s alarming “when you take a look at Dobbs and see how the majority in the Supreme Court could disregard precedent that protects the individual against the abuses of power,” including what he called the power of “religious fundamentalism.”

He said the conservative majority’s erosion of individual rights, including the right to abortion and potentially the right to contraception or same-sex marriage, is especially worrisome “to those of us that have different religious views.”

“I do worry that when you get these fundamentalist views that we’re a Christian state when we’re not a Christian state, the minority religions are going to be in trouble,” he said.

Cardin said “the trend of this court” is “you see four or five justices that have seemed to be pretty determined for an agenda to take us in a wrong direction.”

“When I’m in a meeting, a public meeting, I don’t particularly want to hear government officials supporting one religion over another. And I’m in a minority religion, being Jewish, so I want to make sure there’s not an expansion for that,” he said.

Cardin said he’s often invited to churches as a senator and doesn’t mind being in the midst of Christian worship, “but I don’t want our government doing that.”

Alito found himself embroiled in controversy once again this month after he was recorded telling a liberal activist at a Supreme Court gala that he agreed the country needs to return “to a place of godliness.” The activist was posing as a conservative, and Alito did not know he was being recorded.

The recording became public a few days after The New York Times reported an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which has become a symbol of Christian nationalism, was displayed at his New Jersey beach house.

Alito explained in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) that his wife hoisted the flag at his property and insisted he “had no involvement in the decision to fly [it].” He also said he “was not familiar with the ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag when my wife flew it.”

But Democratic senators are skeptical: “I think there is a far-right group that is exploiting religion for a political agenda that is anti-woman, anti-choice, anti-science and wants to roll back our essential constitutional rights, and they’re exploiting every institution, whether the Supreme Court or Congress, to advance that agenda,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), who is Jewish, said when asked about the rise of Christian nationalism on the right and the display of the “Appeal to Heaven” flag at Alito’s property.

“I’m not as sure that a lot of the faith leaders in this country realize how potentially damaging to democracy it is,” he said.

Blumenthal said he’s worried Alito’s biggest decisions have blurred the line between church and state.

 “It’s downright scary,” he said. “The founders of our Constitution came to this country or descended from people who made that journey here because they wanted to be free of the government telling them what their faith and religious belief should be.”

Blumenthal emphasized he’s “a person of faith, and I respect other people’s faiths,” but he said “to advance one faith over another or to discriminate against any faith is abhorrent and repugnant and should never be part of any law in this country.”

“My hope is that Alito and others who seem to share that view that they want to turn this nation into a country reflective of only one faith will be rejected by the vast majority of Americans,” he said.

Research contact: @NBCNews