I’ve long suspected that at least one of the Supreme Court justices would retire during Bush’s term and I was really hoping it’d be Scalia instead of O’Connor mainly because if Scalia had his way America would definitely take a greater turn toward theocracy. Take this column by Robyn E. Blumner at the St. Petersberg Online website in which she reports on the dissenting opinion written by Scalia in a recent Ten Commandments case:
In McCreary County vs. ACLU of Kentucky, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments from courthouses in two Kentucky counties. Scalia, in an apoplectic dissent, made a case for a civil religion. He claimed the founders intended for government to endorse a belief in a single, personal God who is directly engaged in the affairs of men.
“With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief,” Scalia wrote, “it is entirely clear from our nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.”
Did you get that? As far as Scalia is concerned if you’re not a member of the Big Three monotheistic religions in America (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) then as fas as he’s concerned anything you have to say on the matter of religion can be ignored. Some folks wonder why it is that Atheists tend to get along with many believers of minority religions such as Neo-Pagans/Wiccans, Buddhists, Hindus and so on while seeming to end up in constant conflict with Christians and a lot of it has to do with the fact that, more often than not, Atheists find themselves on the same side of an issue as the minority religions. Scalia offered up some of the standard quotes from the Founding Fathers that many Christians like to use as “proof” they intended this to be a Christian nation which Blumner does a pretty good job of debunking.
Scalia is actually being quite generous here in granting Jews and Muslims the same status as Christians in the eyes of the U.S. Government and his rationale is that all three supposedly believe in the same God and the divinity of the Ten Commandments, but there’s a couple of problems with that argument…
“(W)e do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor scolded. She reminded Scalia of the oft-repeated principle that the very purpose of the Bill of Rights was to remove certain subjects “beyond the reach of majorities.”
Scalia seemed rhetorically unprepared when Justice John Paul Stevens informed him that the Decalogue comes in different forms depending on one’s faith. The Kentucky counties chose to display the King James version. But Jews and Catholics have their own. By choosing one form over another, Kentucky was violating the very denominational neutrality that Scalia claimed to support.
His answer to this inconsistency was to punt. “I doubt that most religious adherents are even aware that there are competing versions with doctrinal consequences (I certainly was not),” Scalia wrote. He then claimed that due to the context of the postings, no viewer could “conceivably” believe that the government was taking religious sides.
Oh, no? Then why didn’t the good people of Kentucky choose the Jewish version?
The answer is, of course, obvious: Because it wasn’t Jewish people who put up the TC where they didn’t belong. So I’m sad to see O’Connor stepping down as she was often a good check against the likes of Scalia, but fortunately it appears that Justice Stevens may be a bit of an ally in keeping the wall of separation strong. If Bush manages to get someone with similar Fundamentalist views as Scalia on the court then there could be some serious trouble coming, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Better yet, let’s hope Scalia decides to retire soon.