Justice Alito thinks bigots belong on juries

Justice Samuel Alito believes the First Amendment gives bigots the right to serve on juries.

Supreme something or other, Justice Alito protested the court's refusal to take up a case wherein people with an admitted bias against a litigant were denied seats on a jury. Alito couldn't actually dissent, as there was no appeal to hear, but he wrote a statement insisting that it is horrible for people with a pronounced bias not to be allowed to serve on a jury.

The Supreme Court refused to take up the case on Tuesday with no noted dissents. Even Alito could not actually dissent, because, as he acknowledged, the defense attorney failed to preserve an objection to the strikes, dooming the appeal. So, instead, Alito wrote an angry "statement" claiming that the case "exemplifies the danger that I anticipated in Obergefell v. Hodges"—specifically, that "Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be 'labeled as bigots and treated as such' by the government." Obergefell, the justice asserted, "made it clear that the decision should not be used in that way, but I am afraid that this admonition is not being heeded by our society."

When a court holds that a person "is ineligible to serve on a jury because of his or her religious beliefs," Alito went on, "that decision implicates fundamental rights" protecting both equal protection and free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. The Missouri appeals court concluded that the strikes in dispute did not run afoul of free exercise because they focused on religious beliefs, not religious "status" or "affiliation." In other words, the potential jurors were struck for holding specific prejudices against gay people, not because they identified as Christian. Many other courts have drawn a similar line between religious belief and religious status. Yet Alito dismissed this distinction as meaningless. The court, he wrote, still agreed to "single out the religious for disfavored treatment." And that is generally forbidden "regardless of whether the differential treatment is predicated on religious status or religious belief."