Antonin Scalia’s Thoughts on Secularists, the Devil, the Separation of Church and State, and Religion in the Public Square

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia

By Elaine Magliaro

Antonin Scalia on the Separation of Church and State

Antonin Scalia is our country’s longest-serving Supreme Court Justice. Scalia, a Catholic, was appointed to the highest court in the land by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Earlier this week, Justice Scalia, who is part of the court’s “conservative wing,” talked about the separation of church and state during a speech he gave at Colorado Christian University. According to the Washington Times, Justice Scalia “was preaching to the choir when he told the audience at Colorado Christian University that a battle is underway over whether to allow religion in public life, from referencing God in the Pledge of Allegiance to holding prayers before city hall meetings.”

Jordan Steffen Steffen of The Denver Post reported that Scalia said, “No principle of democracy is more fundamental than what has become known as the separation of church and state.” Steffen wrote that Scalia “lamented about the need for a balance in the separation of church and state. But he also criticized what he said was a growing effort to quash religion in politics and stressed the importance of religious freedom.” Scalia said, “There are those who would have us believe that the separation of church and state must mean that God must be driven out of the public forum. That is simply not what our Constitution has ever meant.”

Steffen added that Justice Scalia also warned his audience that a religious preoccupation with the government “will destroy the church.”

During the course of his speech, Scalia said, “I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion.” He added, “That’s a possible way to run a political system. The Europeans run it that way. And if the American people want to do it, I suppose they can enact that by statute. But to say that’s what the Constitution requires is utterly absurd.” He continued, “We do him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is in the best of American traditions, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution.”

Shadee Ashtari (Huffington Post) wrote that Scalia “knocked secular qualms over the role of religion in the public sphere as ‘utterly absurd,’ arguing that the Constitution is only obligated to protect freedom of religion — not freedom from it.” Ashtari noted that Scalia joined in the high court’s “majority opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, which held that the New York town could continue opening legislative sessions with sectarian prayers.” She added that since the ruling in that case, Scalia has used it “to press for the approval of public prayers in schools, legislatures and courtrooms.” She reported that Scalia had also criticized the Supreme Court “for declining to review Elmbrook School District v. John Doe, a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that a public school district’s decision to conduct graduation ceremonies in a church violated the Establishment Clause.”

Ashtaree said that Scalia also criticized fellow justices “who champion a more evolving, ‘living’ view of the Constitution — a judicial philosophy he has previously said only an ‘idiot’ could believe.”

A Constitutional originalist, Scalia claimed that the “biggest danger lies with judges who interpret the Constitution as a malleable document that changes with the times.” He said, “Our [the court‘s] latest take on the subject, which is quite different from previous takes, is that the state must be neutral, not only between religions, but between religion and nonreligion. That’s just a lie. Where do you get the notion that this is all unconstitutional? You can only believe that if you believe in a morphing Constitution.”

SatanBaphomet

Scalia Talks about the Devil

The following is a bit off topic—but still on the subject of Antonin Scalia and religion. Last October, New York Magazine published an interview that the conservative justice had with Jennifer Senior. During the interview, Senior asked Scalia if he had seen any evidence of the Devil lately. Scalia responded, “You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.”

Scalia surmised that the Devil wasn’t so visible these days because he’s “smart.” Scalia said what the devil appeared to up to now was “getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.”

Excerpt from Senior’s interview with Justice Antonin Scalia:

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

Right.
What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

SOURCES

Antonin Scalia Says Constitution Permits Court To ‘Favor Religion Over Non-Religion’ (Huffington Post)

Scalia defends keeping God, religion in public square (Washington Times)

Justice Antonin Scalia: Constitution allows religion to be favored over secularism (Raw Story)

Holding The Religious Right To Its Own Standard (Right Wing Watch)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia talks state, church during speech (Denver Post)

Scalia: I believe in the devil–“What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way” (Salon)

In Conversation: Antonin Scalia: On the eve of a new Supreme Court session, the firebrand justice discusses gay rights and media echo chambers, Seinfeld and the Devil, and how much he cares about his intellectual legacy (“I don’t”). (New York Magazine)

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14 Responses to Antonin Scalia’s Thoughts on Secularists, the Devil, the Separation of Church and State, and Religion in the Public Square

  1. How nice….we have Torquemada on the supreme court…guess no one expected the Spanish Inquisition. He has somehow mixed up the constitution with the Malleus Maleficarum. “Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde.” Guess no one told him the rest of us moved on from Medieval to the Age of Enlightenment….maybe he was home sick the week when that era was taught in class.

  2. James Knauer says:

    “You’re looking at me as though I’m weird.”

    “Justice” Scalia seems to be having an epiphany, at least for a sentence. But, lo! It doesn’t last long:

    “Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! ”

    The verb “to believe” is not an action verb. It’s fantasy, a wish, and if one is going to be granted wishes, why on earth would one choose to wish for a “devil?” The whole argument belongs in church, not in any reasoning for even the most minor court decision.

    Scalia has got to go.

  3. Mike Spindell says:

    Most of the awful arc of Scalia’s life has been self-justified in the phrase “the Devil made me do it!”

  4. orolee says:

    I’m afraid the effect on our country from what the altar boys are doing to the Constitution willl be th same as that on the Church by priests doing altar boys

  5. Elaine M. says:

    Antonin Scalia Has Magic Jesus Constitution, Has So Much Jesus All Up In It
    http://wonkette.com/562276/antonin-scalia-has-magic-jesus-constitution-has-so-much-jesus-all-up-in-it

    Excerpt:
    We suppose that in Scalia’s originalist, non-activist brain, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” actually means that as long as no laws promote any particular religion, then the state can still promote religion in general, because it’s more fun to believe that government can promote God without actually endorsing religion. After all, Thomas Jefferson said that “God who made the mind of man made it free,” so if the guy who coined “separation of church and state” was OK with God, then so’s the Constitution. Also, said Scalia, since we’ve always talked about God in our official discourse, it’s impossible that the Constitution could ban that, ever:

    “We do him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies,” Justice Scalia said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It is in the best of American traditions, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution.”

    There is certainly nothing wrong with that, since the founders inserted God into the pledge of allegiance at the founding of our nation in 1954. Scalia also warned, as he is wont to do, of the dangers of treating the Constitution as anything but the cold dead hand of the Framers:

    “Our [the court‘s] latest take on the subject, which is quite different from previous takes, is that the state must be neutral, not only between religions, but between religion and nonreligion,” Justice Scalia said. “That’s just a lie. Where do you get the notion that this is all unconstitutional? You can only believe that if you believe in a morphing Constitution.”

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  7. Elaine M. says:

    Here’s an interesting article about Scalia that was written by Dahlia Lithwick:

    Scalia v. Scalia
    Does his faith influence his judicial decision making?
    May 21 2014
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/scalia-v-scalia/361621/

    Excerpt:
    March was a hugely important month for religion and the Supreme Court, and a pivotal moment for Justice Antonin Scalia, the subject of a fat new biography. Too bad we couldn’t talk plainly about what was, and is, at stake. In a country historically averse to political debates about competing faiths, nowhere is frank discussion of religion more taboo than at the U.S. Supreme Court. “Religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It’s not something that’s talked about in polite company,” as Jeff Shesol, the author of a book about the New Deal Court, put it. He was speaking with NPR’s Nina Totenberg in 2010, when John Paul Stevens was looking at retirement and, for the first time in American history, there was the prospect of six Catholics, three Jews, and no Protestants on the highest court in the land—a watershed almost too “radioactive,” Totenberg remarked, even to note. And beware of venturing any further than that, as the University of Chicago Law School’s Geoffrey Stone did in a controversial 2007 blog post suggesting that the Supreme Court’s five conservatives likely derived their abortion views from Catholic doctrine: Scalia—a devout Catholic, and the current Court’s longest-serving conservative—announced a boycott of the school until Stone leaves the faculty…

    …Scalia is in fact leaving a very powerful mark, as precisely the lone, uncompromising figure his latest biographer portrays so astutely. The Hobby Lobby case serves as a reminder of a profound shift on the Court over the 24 years since Scalia evoked the specter of the religious objector as “a law unto himself.” That may have been his nightmare in 1990, but in so many ways it is Scalia’s legacy in 2014. Scalia represents the living embodiment of the besieged religious dissenter, the “Christian as cretin,” in his parlance, the man who believes that the only remaining front in the American war for civil rights is the battle to defend religion. Two decades ago, nobody could have imagined that five members of the Court would align themselves with that posture.

    But in the years since Samuel Alito joined the Court in 2006, replacing the centrist Sandra Day O’Connor, the five conservatives on the bench have shown less and less solicitude for the rights of women, workers, voters, minorities, the elderly, the environment, the poor, and most criminal defendants—and they have shown growing and seemingly boundless patience for religious objectors. The Court is currently hearing, and will continue to hear, passionate challenges to a secular society from religious dissenters seeking not just the right to deny contraception to their workers, but the right to pray at town-council meetings and—somewhere down the line, it seems likely—the right to deny services to same-sex couples. Murphy may be correct that Scalia is a court of one. But in the religious-rights revival now in progress in America, one is perhaps all that is needed.

  8. buckaroo says:

    There are few people so stubborn in their atheism who when danger is pressing in will not acknowledge the divine power.
    —- Plato

  9. Mike Spindell says:

    “There are few people so stubborn in their atheism who when danger is pressing in will not acknowledge the divine power.
    —- Plato”

    However, there are many who in the face of death would rather pray to delusion, rather than fight to save themselves.

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  11. Bob Kauten says:

    The only folks who think that there are no atheists in foxholes, don’t know any atheists, and haven’t been in any foxholes.
    Those who tell themselves that atheists become deists in times of stress, are simply justifying their religious fantasies. “Even atheists believe as I do, deep down.”
    Wrong.
    If you don’t believe in a deity, and you’re convinced that you’re in deadly danger, you won’t waste your time praying. It won’t even occur to you. Praying would be talking to yourself. You’ll eliminate the middle man. You’ll spend your time acting to get out of the situation.

  12. orolee says:

    Review ‘Nature’s God’ explores ‘heretical origins’ of religion in U.S.

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-jc-matthew-stewart-20140629-story.html

    • Mike Spindell says:

      Oro Lee,

      Two excellent links well worth reading and providing great context for Elaine’s Post.

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