Can Antonin Scalia actually read the Constitution?

Antonin Scalia:

“I think 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 nonreligion,” Justice Scalia said.

“That’s a possible way to run a political system. The Europeans run it that way,” Justice Scalia said. “And if the American people want to do it, I suppose they can enact that by statute. But to say that’s what the Constitution requires is utterly absurd.”

Ummmm….

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I suppose a very pro-religious reading might suggest that an elected official might be able to place a religious icon on public property under the argument that it’s free exercise and not technically a law establishing religion. I would disagree with that assessment, but it wouldn’t take a crazy person to make that judgment.

But Scalia is saying that the Constitution doesn’t prevent the government from favoring religion over non-religion. That’s crazy. The Constitution is actually very clear on that point. It doesn’t say that Congress can’t establish one religion over another. It says that Congress shall make no law establishing religion. Period.

A first grader could tell Scalia that. I choose not to believe that Scalia is a fool or insane. That would be too terrifying. It’s easier to simply believe that Scalia is an ideologue, a dishonest broker who is willing to say anything to serve his preconceived ideas about right and wrong.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.