January 23, 2005

"Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity."

"Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world." Justice Scalia exhorts Christians. (Via How Appealing.) The linked article tempts you to tie his religious ideas to his legal work:
He has described himself as an "originalist," following the Constitution as written by the Founding Fathers, rather than interpreting it to reflect the changing times.

In November, while speaking to an interfaith conference at a Manhattan synagogue, Scalia made headlines by saying that a religion-neutral government does not fit with an America that reflects belief in God in everything from its money to its military.

More than a year ago, he removed himself from the Supreme Court's review of whether "under God" should be in the Pledge of Allegiance after mentioning the case in a speech and complaining that courts are stripping God from public life.

Last year, Scalia cast one of two dissenting votes in a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling that states may deny taxpayer-funded scholarships to divinity students. And in 2000, he stood with a majority of the court in upholding the constitutionality of taxpayer funding for parochial school materials in a Jefferson Parish case.

What is sorely missing from that passage is the information that Justice Scalia would strongly bind the courts to a standard of neutrality. He wrote the key case about the meaning of the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution, which deprived religious believers of the argument that government has to relieve them of burdens caused by neutral, generally applicable laws. (Congress attempted to overturn his interpretation with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.) And in that scholarship case, referred to above, Scalia's dissenting position had to do with depriving the state of the power to define its program in a way that specifically discriminated against religion. He was adhering to a requirement of government neutrality, where the majority was authorizing the state to discriminate against religion in pursuit of its commitment to the separation of church and state.

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