He was right.
Now the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, two members dissenting, has underlined how right Alito was. In a conflict between non-discrimination laws and religious liberty, a commission report says, non-discrimination as defined by the government wins. Although the commission lacks enforcement authority, its report unquestionably reflects an ominous, growing consensus in secular liberal circles.
Not only that, but the civil rights watchdog's chairman, Martin R. Castro, accompanied the report's release with a statement calling "religious liberty" and "religious freedom" frequent code words for "discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia" and other reprehensible behavior.
This was deeply and gratuitously offensive. Some proponents of religious liberty no doubt have been guilty of intolerance, and some perhaps still are. But religious liberty itself is no more invalidated by that fact than speeding laws are invalidated by drivers who speed.
Religious liberty is part of the Constitution, embedded in the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. By contrast, non-discrimination isn't mentioned in the constitutional text and tortuous interpretation has sometimes been required to find a basis for it there. Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion legalizing same-sex marriage last year was an egregious instance.
But an incident back in 1783 points to the most compelling reason for concern about these matters.