Supreme Court Architect Flew Same ‘Appeal to Heaven’ Flag as Alito

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito flew an “Appeal to Heaven” flag at his New Jersey beach house. The flag’s close association with both far-right Christian nationalists and the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 raises serious questions about Alito’s ability to rule impartially. The conservative court on which Alito sits is largely the product of right-wing dark-money overlord Leonard Leo, and — wouldn’t you know it — Leo flew the same “Appeal to Heaven” flag outside of his house in Maine.

Murray Ngoima, a Bar Harbor resident, provided Rolling Stone with a photo she took of the flag hanging outside of his house on Feb. 25. Ngoima says that residents were outside Leo’s house that day to protest the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision declaring that IVF embryos are people under the law.

leonard leo flag protest
leonard leo flag protest

A spokesman for Leonard Leo, reached by Rolling Stone on Thursday, provided a statement from Leo, who wrote that he flies the flag because “it was the first flag of the navy of the US” and that it symbolizes “civic duty and philanthropy toward one’s country”; because he “like naval flags”; and because as a resident of Maine he “likes pine trees.”

The “Appeal to Heaven” flag is white with an evergreen tree at its center. The flag was initially a Revolutionary War banner, with the motto taken from philosopher John Locke. Recently, however, the flag has been co-opted by far-right Christian nationalists looking to impose their will on the United States by any means necessary. Rolling Stone reported last fall that House Speaker Mike Johnson flew the flag outside of his office in Congress, and that he has ties to the New Apostolic Reformation, a network of Christian leaders who believe that God has given Christians a “mandate” to “conquer” the government and other aspects of life.

The New Apostolic Reformation is responsible for the “Appeal to Heaven” flag’s recent prominence in far-right Christian nationalist circles — which overlap with the MAGA movement. New Apostolic Reformation leaders were early to endorse him ahead of the 2016 election, and “Appeal to Heaven” flags were spotted at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. The Times reported last week that Alito flew an upside-down American flag — a symbol of solidarity with the “Stop the Steal” movement — outside of his house ahead of President Biden’s inauguration.

As President Donald Trump’s judicial adviser, Leo helped select Trump’s three Supreme Court justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Leo also directs a dark money hub, the Judicial Crisis Network, that ran PR campaigns boosting those justices’ confirmations. JCN was first created to support the confirmations of Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

On Thursday, Leo’s dark money hub, the Judicial Crisis Network, shared a National Review article on X defending Alito. “Of course, it is true that the Pine Tree Flag is associated today with conservatives, just as is true of virtually all Founding-era patriotic iconography, including the Constitution itself,” JCN wrote, quoting the piece. “But that is mostly just a symptom of the political Left having abandoned the American Founding and its philosophy.”

Leo’s sprawling, growing dark money network, which received a historic $1.6 billion infusion in 2022, additionally donates to politicians and organizations that bring and support conservative, precedent-shattering cases before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has recently been plagued by ethical concerns — largely due to reporting about Alito and Clarence Thomas’ relationships with Leo and other conservative megadonors.

Leo reportedly helped organize a luxury Alaska trip at the center of those ethics scandals, including arranging Alito’s seat on a private jet that was paid for by a billionaire hedge fund chief. And Leo reportedly steered consulting payments to Thomas’ wife, Ginni.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religious Foundation which has filed multiple complaints about the “Appeal to Heaven” flag when it has flown outside government buildings in recent years, said the flag “has been adopted explicitly to signal Christian nationalist views … The meaning is very clear to those who fly it.”

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