Supreme Prejudice: Scalia Says Government Can Promote Religion

Justice Scalia has been a complete and utter disaster as far as church-state separation is concerned.

The U.S. Supreme Court is gearing up to come back into session Oct. 5, and just in time for that, Justice Antonin Scalia has decided to pop off in the media about how much he hates church-state separation – again!

In what is billed as an "Historic Exclusive Interview" in the Brooklyn-based Orthodox   Jewish newspaper Hamodia, Scalia attacks one of the core concepts of church-state separation – the idea that government must remain neutral between religion and non-religion.

To Scalia, this is all stuff and nonsense. He believes the government should be able to prefer religion. Government neutrality on religious matters, he says, "is not an accurate representation of what Americans believe."

Scalia goes on to assert that in the 1960s and '70s, when the high court was much more separationist than it is now, it was in fact "hostile" to religion.

"I am not sure how Orthodox Jews feel about the Establishment Clause, but I assume they do not like driving God out of public life," he observes.

Admittedly, I don't move in Scalia's rarified circles, but I see little evidence of God being driven out of public life. It's true that government is not supposed to promote religion, but people still can – and they do.

Scalia denies that his personal religious views have influenced the way he votes, but then he cuts loose with this gem: "There is a quote attributed to various people from Bismarck down to Charles de Gaulle. I prefer to attribute it to Charles de Gaulle because it sounds like him. 'God protects,' he said, 'little children, drunkards and the United States of America.' I think it may be true. And the reason may be because we honor Him as a nation. We invoke Him in our country, our Presidents invoke Him, my court open its sessions with 'God save the United States.' Those things are not insignificant."

Unfortunately, the entire interview is not online. I shudder to think what else it might contain.

Scalia has been a complete and utter disaster as far as church-state separation is concerned. He was one of two justices to vote in favor of allowing public schools to teach "creation science." He has voted to allow government to meddle in school prayer at every turn. He believes taxing people to support religious institutions is just fine. As far as he is concerned, government can festoon itself with the Ten Commandments and other sectarian symbols.

His view on the free exercise of religion is similarly crabbed. In 1990, Scalia wrote a majority opinion blithely dismissing the importance of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause and giving government sweeping new powers to restrict religious behavior. Even many conservatives were appalled.

Scalia also wants to limit the right of Americans to challenge church-state violations in federal court. He was in the majority in the infamous Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2007.

Back in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan nominated Scalia to the Supreme Court, Americans United was one of the few national organizations to oppose his confirmation. Our attorneys read his lower court opinions and were alarmed.

Unfortunately, AU's efforts to focus attention on Scalia's extreme views did not meet with success, and he sailed right on to the court. Now he's making a big mess of things – often joined by his sidekick Clarence Thomas.

I hate to say we told you so, but well, we told you so.