Why Justice Scalia says government should favor religion over nonreligion

supreme-cout with flowers

US Supreme Court. For the Muslim Times’ perspective please see the comment below

Source: Religion News Service

Guest post by Daniel Bennett, who researches the conservative legal movement. He is a professor of political science at Eastern Kentucky University.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a small audience in Louisiana this weekend that the government was not required to remain neutral on matters of religion. In fact, God, according to Scalia, had been good to America because of it.

“God has been very good to us,” Scalia said. “That we won the revolution was extraordinary. The Battle of Midway was extraordinary. I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways.”

Scalia told the audience at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, La., that government can (and should) favor religion over nonreligion. He sharply criticized his colleagues on the Court for their decisions to the contrary.

“Don’t cram it down the throats of an American people that has always honored God on the pretext that the Constitution requires it,” he said.

While the statements made headlines, they were not surprising to court observers. Scalia holds to an accommodationist view of church-state relations. Accommodationists call for a limited reading of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Accommodationists agree that the Establishment Clause prohibits the federal government from, say, supporting a national church. But as far as general support for religion, such as displaying the 10 Commandments in courtrooms or praying in public schools? This is perfectly compatible with the First Amendment, they say.

Scalia has taken this position in cases before. In McCreary County v. ACLU, the Court ruled against a 10 Commandments display in a Kentucky courtroom, finding the display’s purpose was to advance religion. In a dissenting opinion Scalia blasted the ruling, saying the majority had missed the point of the Establishment Clause:

The three most popular religions in the United States, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—which combined account for 97.7% of all believers—are monotheistic. All of them, moreover (Islam included), believe that the Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses, and are divine prescriptions for a virtuous life. Publicly honoring the Ten Commandments is thus indistinguishable…from publicly honoring God. Both practices are recognized across such a broad and diverse range of the population—from Christians to Muslims—that they cannot be reasonably understood as a government endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint.

He also raised these views in Lee v. Weisman, a case involving prayer at high school graduation ceremonies. Also dissenting in this case, Scalia panned the majority’s reasoning that school officials coerced students into praying as “incoherent,” and not true to an original understanding of the Establishment Clause.

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The Muslim Times’ Chief Editor’s comments:

Seems innocuous enough, if we put ourselves in the mind set and reasoning of the author. But, if today we do not allow freedom of thought and religion to the agnostics and the atheists, tomorrow victims will be the Muslims and the Jews.

A prayer to God can very quickly evolve into prayer to Jesus, may peace be on him, which the Jews and the Muslims will take strong exception to.

The agnostics and the atheists will be able to easily blend in the Christian culture, but, the Muslims will not be able to and become the real victims of discrimination in the present Islamophobic atmosphere in the country, if the boundaries of secularism are gradually eroded.

We should glorify God in the privacy of our homes, but, in the public sphere we should jealously guard the principles of secularism. The God of the holy Quran demands it from every believer, please do not deceive Him, by any wishful thinking.

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