WASHINGTON — United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito warned Thursday morning that America's constitutional structure has faced "unprecedented challenges" in recent years, adding that the constitutional principle of religious freedom is in "greater danger" today.
The 66-year-old Alito, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006, addressed conservative litigators at the Federalist Society's 2016 National Lawyers Convention at the Mayflower Hotel and gave a 45-minute speech that highlighted the impact that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made on the bench.
In his address, Alito spoke about the threats currently facing constitutional rights, such as religious freedom and free speech, and touched on the challenges facing the constitutional principle of separation of powers.
"When Nino [Scalia's nickname] spoke to students he would often ask them what is most important about the Constitution and, more times then not, the answer would refer to the Bill of Rights," Alito explained. "Nino would say, 'Wrong. What is most important is the structure, the separation of powers at the federal level and the division of sovereignty between federal government and the states.' Human rights guarantees are worthless without a governmental structure to protect them."
However, Alito stressed that "in recent years, we have seen unprecedented challenges to our constitutional structure" as "the executive has also claimed the power to make out-in-out changes in the laws enacted by Congress."
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