The Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative hosted the 2022 Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit in Rome last week to highlight that freedom of religion or belief is a global issue.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito — who delivered the keynote address at the Religious Liberty Summit’s gala dinner on Thursday, July 21 — noted that the Roman setting also brought to mind how religious freedom has been challenged and championed throughout history.
“I find myself thinking about the proud civilization that was centered here two millennia ago,” Alito said near the beginning of his remarks.
“As I think back, I also think ahead, and I wonder what historians may say centuries from now about the contribution of the United States to world civilization,” he said. “One thing I hope they will say is that our country, after a lot of fits and starts, and ups and downs, eventually showed the world that it is possible to have a stable and successful society in which people of diverse faiths live and work together harmoniously and productively while still retaining their own beliefs. This has been truly an historic accomplishment.”
But, the justice added, as the remnants of the Roman Empire make clear throughout the city, no human achievement is ever permanent.
“Therefore, we can’t lightly assume that the religious liberty enjoyed today in the United States, in Europe, and in many other places will always endure. Religious liberty is fragile, and religious intolerance and persecution have been recurring features of human history,” he said.
Indeed, Rome is where St. Peter, St. Paul, and countless other early Christians were martyred.
“If we look around the world today, we see that people of many different faiths face persecution because of religion,” Alito said, noting that religious liberty is a life-or-death matter in many parts of the globe.