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Justice Samuel Alito gave a strong and impassioned speech to the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention on Thursday, where he condemned efforts by the left to take away religious freedom — in particular their efforts to force Christians like the Little Sisters of the poor to fund abortions.

He first condemned those liberals going after the Society, saying they “stood up to an attempt to hobble the debate that the Federalist Society fosters.”

Then he launched into his defense of religious freedom.

“It pains me to say this,” Alito said. “But in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.”

“That is just what has come to pass,” he said. “One of the great challenges for the Supreme Court going forward will be to protect freedom of speech. Although that freedom is falling out of favor in some circles, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right”

Addressing the theme of religious liberty, Alito criticized the Obama administration for what he called a “protracted campaign” and “unrelenting attack” on the Little Sisters of the Poor,a group of Catholic nuns that Democrats have repeatedly tried to force to fund abortions.

“Is our country going to follow that course?” Alito asked. “For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and can’t be tolerated, even when there is no evidence that anybody has been harmed. … The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs.”

Alito also condemned the persecution conservative law students face.

“Unfortunately, tolerance for opposing views is now in short supply in many law schools and in the broader academic community,” the justice said. “When I speak with recent law school graduates, what I hear over and over is that they face harassment and retaliation if they say anything that departs from the law school orthodoxy.”