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What Justice Antonin Scalia Doesn’t Understand About Freedom Of Religion

This week, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, during a speech at Colorado Christian University, promoted the use of government powers to coerce Americans into religious belief and worship. Scalia lectured his audience that, “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 non-religion”

antonin scaliaScalia declared, “That the state must be neutral, not only between religions, but between religion and non-religion, that’s just a lie. Where do you get the notion that this is all unconstitutional?”

This is an important question. Where do we get the notion that it is unconstitutional for the government to promote religion in general?

We get this notion from the following passages in the Constitution of the United States of America:

  • In Article VI: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
  • In the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    The exercise of religion is not free when it takes place because of force or coercion from the government. When the state is not neutral, but uses its power to push American citizens into religious belief and worship, the resulting exercise of religion is not freely undertaken. That’s a simple fact, not a lie. What part of this concept is so difficult for Justice Scalia to understand?

    When participation in religious rituals of worship, such as prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance, is required of both public officials and attending citizens in order to participate in public meetings, it amounts to a religious test of admittance into an office or public trust. Is this idea really to complicated for Justice Scalia to grasp?

    To be honest, I don’t believe that Antonin Scalia is ignorant of these concerns. It seems more likely that he just doesn’t care about them. What he clearly does care about is the continued political dominance of his own kind of religion: Monotheism.

    Justice Scalia pretends that he favors only state sponsorship of religion in general, rather than government promotion of one religion over another, but whenever he argues for the promotion of religion in general, he does so by asserting the need of the government to promote belief in God, and worship of God. In his speech at Colorado Christian University this week, for example, he told the audience that, “We do Him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

    Worshipping God, honoring God, and promoting belief in God is not at all equivalent to promoting religion in general. It’s the selective promotion of monotheism – and Jewish and Christian forms of monotheism in particular. Never does Justice Scalia support, or even refer to, government practices in which belief in or worship of a goddess, or of multiple gods, or of non-theistic religious concepts. Scalia couldn’t refer to such practices, of course, because they do not exist in the United States. In this country, when the federal government promotes religion, it promotes worship in a single, male divinity which arises particularly out of the Jewish and Christian religions.

    In practice, Scalia’s supposed scheme of the promotion of religion in general is not at all neutral between religions. It’s discriminatory against minority religions, not to mention discriminatory against the growing portion of the American population that is non-religious.

    “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,” said Antonin Scalia in his Colorado speech.

    Anyone who has real faith in an omnipotent, transcendent monotheistic divine being cannot believe that something so earthly as the Constitution of the United States of America could drive their god out of the public forum. What the Constitution does is to remove religious agendas from the human-created of the U.S. federal government, so that Americans of all religion and of no religion at all can live in equality. Only people who seek to use the government to shove their own religion in the face of other people could have a problem with that.

  • 2 thoughts on “What Justice Antonin Scalia Doesn’t Understand About Freedom Of Religion”

    1. Bruce Nappi says:

      This sounds like clear grounds for impeachment. However, as we all know, when the foxes are guarding the hen house, what the hens say isn’t going to count much. The cards are stacked. For impeachment, a complaint has to be filed with the House of Representatives. They have to vote on it. With the corruption in the House, such a filing wouldn’t see the light of day. If the House did accept it, the Senate would then have to hold a trial. Good luck with that. With the “Christian mania” in the country, as evidenced by the “stomp out EVIL” witch hunt now going on in the middle east, our population is not about to play tough with the Senate on this issue.

      So, let me use this article to raise a point that applies to religion broadly, and to critiquing it specifically. The population has read and heard criticisms like the one you wrote, repeatedly, from every angle. They’ve responded by blocking their ears. More articles are a waste of time, partly. ( I say partly, because a. kids are just being exposed to the controversy and it is important that they hear criticism; and b. voicing our concerns allows us to critique each other, to make sure we are being objective.) So the question is, knowing what we know, what can we do to move forward in our lives? In other words, how does a community that understands “freedom” from religion, pull together, and using the benefits of this freedom, improve our lives?

    2. Charles Manning says:

      It really troubles me that Scalia has such a powerful post from which to promote his bias. To respond to Bruce Nappi, one of the best things we can do is expose people like Scalia the way J. Clifford has — by publicizing their thinking among people capable of recognizing it for what it is. The venue of Scalia’s remarks suggests he’s not so confident that he can sell his anti-constitutional wares in “secular” venues.

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