Scalia's Welcome Clarification

Monday, March 07, 2005

Scalia's Welcome Clarification

I don't think anyone will be surprised if U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia casts his vote in support of upholding the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument displayed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol building.

Scalia may be a ideologue, but I appreciated his candor at one point during last week's oral arguments in the Ten Commandments case. When Texas' attorney general implied that the Ten Commandments (unlike the crucifix) is a secular icon, Scalia essentially called that characterization ridiculous.

Here was the exchange that took place last Wednesday:
Justice John Paul Stevens: "Would it equally be permissible to have a crucifix of the same size in the same location on the Capitol grounds?"

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott: "I seriously question whether or not a crucifix would be constitutionally acceptable in that same location, and for the very same reasons which I'm articulating why the Ten Commandments would be acceptable in this location. The crucifix is not like the Ten Commandments in that it's not an historically recognized symbol of law. It doesn't send a secular message to all the people, regardless of whether they are believers or not believers, of the important role the Ten Commandments have played in the development of law."

Justice Antonin Scalia: "It's not a secular message. I mean, if you're watering it down to say that the only reason it's okay is it sends nothing but a secular message, I can't agree with you. I think the message it sends is that our institutions come from God. And if you don't think it conveys that message, I just think you're kidding yourself."
For once, Scalia says something I can agree with.

One final note: How incredibly presumptuous is Abbott to suggest that the Ten Commandments "send a secular message to all the people." I happen to be one of that "all," and I sure as hell don't consider them to be secular.

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