Justice Alito, Author of Dobbs Decision, Flew Christian Nationalist Flag at His Beach House

With the “Appeal to Heaven” flag Sam Alito flew outside his New Jersey beach house last summer, the aggrieved Justice's mask has fully come off. 

Justice Alito, Author of Dobbs Decision, Flew Christian Nationalist Flag at His Beach House

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has really been letting his freak flags fly—yes, flags plural. Days after reporting that the Alito home flew an inverted flag, a symbol of the January 6 insurrection, in early 2021, the New York Times uncovered a second far-right flag, this time at the Alitos’ beach house.

The Times reports that, last summer, the flagpole outside the Alito’s Long Beach Island, New Jersey, home bore an “Appeal to Heaven” flag. The white flag with a pine tree dates back to the Revolutionary War, but in the past decade it’s been associated with Christian Nationalism and support for President Donald Trump. A far-right evangelical named Dutch Sheets has been at the center of an effort to revive the flag to represent “a theological vision of what the United States should be and how it should be governed,” according to Matthew Taylor, a religion scholar at the Institute of Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies. 

January 6 rioters carried the “Appeal to Heaven” flag both outside and inside the Capitol that day and ultraconservative Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) also displayed the flag outside his office shortly after being elected Speaker of the House last fall.

Ethics rules say that judges aren’t supposed to give any impression of bias. “We all have our biases, but the good judge fights against them,” Charles Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University Bloomington, told the Times. “When a judge celebrates his predispositions by hoisting them on a flag, that’s deeply disturbing.” Alito blamed the upside-down flag at his Virginia home on his wife merely responding to neighbors she said offended her and he didn’t deny the flag’s symbolism. This time around, Alito did not respond to the Times’ request for comment.

It’s not at all surprising that an aggrieved, overtly partisan judge who hates abortion and marriage equality embraces symbols of the Christian right. Alito wrote the majority opinion in Dobbs overturning the federal right to abortion from Roe v. Wade and he got there by willfully misreading history and objecting that the word “abortion” isn’t in the Constitution. In arguments about the two abortion cases the court is hearing this term, Alito suggested that he supports the concept of fetal personhood and believes the dormant 19th-century Comstock Act could ban the mailing of abortion pills. Alito has also voted to let businesses discriminate against gay people, supported limits on birth control access, and decried the landmark marriage equality decision as transforming religious conservatives into bigots. Oh, and he allegedly leaked the outcome of a 2014 birth control case to evangelical activists.

So yeah, the Pine Tree flag isn’t shocking. What’s actually illuminating is that Alito thinks he can do this shit without facing any consequences—sadly, he may be right about that. Alito should resign, but he won’t. He should recuse from all January 6th-related cases, including the huge one about whether Trump is immune, but no one can force him to do so. Democrats should move to impeach him, but they almost certainly wouldn’t get enough Republican votes to remove him. I suppose we’re left hoping that Democrats will hold investigative hearings on the many Supreme Court ethics scandals so people understand the absolutely huge impact the election will have for the future of the court, and for all of our rights. Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas are both in their 70s. Do you want them replaced by much younger versions of themselves, or do you want more Justices like Ketanji Brown Jackson?

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