Religious Freedom

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience at Colorado Christian University Wednesday that the Constitution supports keeping God and religion in the public square.

“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 non-religion,” he said.

Earlier this year, Scalia, the conservative Catholic jurist, joined the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, which held that the town of Greece, New York, did not violate The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by starting its town-board meetings with explicitly Christian prayers.

In her dissent, which could also be a rebuttal to the Scalia’s remarks at CCU, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that “when citizens go before the government, they go not as Christians or Muslims or Jews (or what have you), but just as Americans.” In other words, civic/governmental meetings like those of a town-board should be secular because the Establishment Clause erects a “wall of separation” between government and religion, even if it is a largely symbolic one.

There is a fundamental disagreement about what religious freedom means in the United States of America. Conservatives see as one of the main functions of the Constitution to protect freedom of religion but not also to protect freedom from religion. It seems to me they have forgotten that men and women fleeing religious persecution in Europe settled this country, and with that fresh in their minds, the framers of the Constitution wanted the United States to be a refuge for people of all religions, not a stronghold for just one religious view. The latter is the vision Scalia offers when he tells audiences we have to get back to “original orthodoxy.” First, you have the government choosing religion over non-religion, then choosing one religion over another.

I am probably preaching to the choir here, but sometimes I need to get stuff like this off my chest. Such is the therapeutic virtue to having a blog.