Friday, November 26, 2004
Scalia says religion infuses U.S. government and history
By VERENA DOBNIK
Associated Press Writer
November 22, 2004, 4:04 PM EST
NEW YORK -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Monday that a religion-neutral government does not fit with an America that reflects belief in God in everything from its money to its military.
"I suggest that our jurisprudence should comport with our actions," Scalia told an audience attending an interfaith conference on religious freedom at Manhattan's Shearith Israel synagogue.
An outspoken conservative, Scalia joined a gathering that included the chief judge of New York state, Judith Kaye, a member of this Orthodox synagogue where the late Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo had worshipped.
The discussion in the century-old edifice was lively.
"I have spent many private hours with Justice Scalia _ in print," said Kaye, who has led New York's highest court for almost a dozen years since she was appointed by Gov. Mario Cuomo, a liberal Democrat.
Scalia, 68, addressed the topic of government and its relationship to religion.
In the synagogue that is home to America's oldest Jewish congregation, he noted that in Europe, religion-neutral leaders almost never publicly use the word "God."
But, the justice asked, "Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America? I don't think so."
Also participating in the three-hour session was Shearith Israel's senior rabbi, Marc Angel, as well as prominent members of New York's Protestant, Roman Catholic and Muslim clergy. Speakers included the Rev. James Forbes Jr. of Riverside Church, the Rev. Arthur Caliandro of the Marble Collegiate Church and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the New York-based American Sufi Muslim Association, whose aim is to foster an American-Muslim identity.
Scalia told them that while the church-and-state battle rages, the official examples of the presence of faith go back to America's Founding Fathers: the word "God" on U.S. currency; chaplains of various faiths in the military and the legislature; real estate tax-exemption for houses of worship _ and the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Last year, Scalia 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.
"None of this is compatible with what we say when we express the so-called principle of neutrality," Scalia said.
He could be tapped as a possible nominee for chief justice should Chief Justice William Rehnquist step down because of his thyroid cancer.
Scalia was named to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Reagan.
Since then, Scalia _ a Catholic raised in Queens and father of nine children, one a priest _ has become an anti-abortion hero to many in the American political right and a leading conservative voice on the court.
An "originalist," Scalia believes in following the Constitution as written by the Founding Fathers, rather than interpreting it to reflect the changing times.
"Our Constitution does not morph," he said Monday, deadpanning, "As I've often said, I am an originalist, I am a textualist, but I am not a nut."
Earlier this 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.
At the time, Scalia wrote: "Let there be no doubt: This case is about discrimination against a religious minority."