I know where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is coming from. I know his conservative leanings and his religious fervor. I know that his mind is set on certain issues. But to hear him talk about the separation of church and state as if the Constitution was written to favor religion over non-religion is absurd.
In a presentation to about 400 at Colorado Christian University in Colorado Springs, Scalia attempted to address the issue of the First Amendment in terms of the favoring of religion over the non-religious – secular America. Of course he quoted Thomas Jefferson’s, “God who made the mind of man made it free” in his argument. The line does show up in the Virginia Declaration of Religious Freedom, but the “God” to which Jefferson referred to is not a Christian God or the God of Abraham. Jefferson was a theist who believed in a power much greater than man’s feeble imagination could conceive.
In fact, the “proofs” Scalia uses are referred to in my book A Christian Nation?: An Examination of Christian Nation Theories and Proofs. Here are but some of the issues as related to the public by the Washington Times and the Huffington Post.
- “We do Him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance…” In fact the pledge of allegiance did not contain the phrase “under god” until Congress voted to add the two words as propaganda against those “godless commies” of the then Soviet Union. This is the same reason why we have “In God We Trust” one our coinage and currency. Both were added in the 1950s when the United States was in the depths of the Cold War, when Marxism was the “religion” of the USSR not atheism. Even today, Marx is held in high esteem by many pro-Soviet activists in Russia.
- “…in all our public ceremonies.” Well not all. Many public ceremonies occur without a prayer proclaiming the Christian deity as the supreme God of the nation. In 2014, in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, the courts declared that if a city, county or other government agency is to have prayer, they are to allow all religious groups, including secular groups, to offer invocations. Today we can watch YouTube videos of pagan, Satanist and even atheists invocations given to city and county council meetings.
- “It is in the best of American traditions, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.” And I won’t. However, tradition does not make the act “legal”, right, righteous, or morally correct. This country had a “tradition” of slavery for hundreds of years yet. Though court opinion and constitutional amendments, slavery is no longer permitted, is illegal.
The Huff Post’s Shadee Ashtari wrote, “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.”
What Scalia and other defenders of the Christian Nation ideal seem to forget is that there are two parts to the very first sentence in the very first amendment to the Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Not only can’t the government establish a single religion as the official religion, it cannot prevent a person from believing the way she or he wishes, including not believing at all.
The Christian faith takes on many forms, as do other faiths. If Justice Scalia wishes to believe that his faith is “the” faith of this nation, so be it. But do not rewrite the Constitution to say that I do not have the freedom not to believe in God or any gods, that I am not protected by the same Constitution from protecting me from religion as it does protecting you the right to believe as you do.