U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking in Colorado this week, had a few things to say about the constitutional doctrine of separation of church that are raising eyebrows. As the Huffington Post reports:
The separation of church and state doesn't mean "the government cannot favor religion over non-religion," Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia argued during a speech at Colorado Christian University on Wednesday, according to The Washington Times.
Defending his strict adherence to the plain text of the Constitution, 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.
"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," the Reagan-appointed jurist told the crowd of about 400 people.
"We do Him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies," the conservative Catholic justice continued. "There's nothing wrong with that. It is in the best of American traditions, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution."
“Our [the Supreme Court’s] latest take on the subject, which is quite different from previous takes, is that the state must be neutral, not only between religions, but between religion and nonreligion,” Scalia said on Wednesday, according to The Washington Times. “That’s just a lie. Where do you get the notion that this is all unconstitutional? You can only believe that if you believe in a morphing Constitution.”
It's easy to see one's way from this viewpoint to the Supreme Court's recent Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, which held by a 5-4 margin, Scalia in the majority, that some businesses can claim religious exemption from the requirement in Obamacare to cover contraceptives in health insurance plans. Politically speaking, at least for the next month, we can't see how Scalia coming to town to lay the ideological underpinnings of restricting access to birth control helps the Republicans most likely to agree with him. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last three months, you know this is a rather touchy subject for our state's top-line Republican candidates. Cory Gardner and Bob Beauprez, both big Scalia fans, would be happy to get to Election Day without ever having to invoke the words "birth control" again. After all, it's a complete non-issue, right?
Except, as Justice Scalia makes abundantly clear, it's an issue. Gardner's defense on contraception when his new over-the-counter pill plan faces scrutiny, that he would still "allow" women to have insurance that covers birth control, runs head-on into Scalia's decision in Hobby Lobby. Likewise with Beauprez's inaccurate contention that IUDs are "abortifacient," which has obvious policy implications no matter how he tries to spin it. Despite the election season desire to put this issue to rest, it can't be done. Because at every level–all the way up to the Supreme Court–it reflects what they stand for.