Justice Scalia says courts misinterpret constitutional church-state separation

Associated Press


FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia complained Sunday that courts have gone overboard in keeping God out of government.

Scalia, speaking at a religious ceremony, said the constitutional wall between church and state has been misinterpreted both by the Supreme Court and lower courts.

As an example, he pointed to an appeals court decision in California last year that barred students from saying the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase "one nation under God."

That ruling is on hold pending further consideration by the same court, but the Supreme Court could eventually be asked to review the case.

Scalia, the main speaker at an event for Religious Freedom Day, said decisions by his own court gave the judges in the Pledge case "plausible support to reach that decision."

However, the justice said he believes such decisions should be done legislatively, not by courts. If critics of the Pledge of Allegiance persuaded the public it should be changed "then we could eliminate 'under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance, that could be democratically done," Scalia said.

The court's most conservative member was warmly received in Fredericksburg where his son, Paul, is a priest at an area Catholic church.

Several hundred people joined him in singing "God Bless America" after a brief parade through downtown.

"He's the voice of reason on the Supreme Court," said Jim McFall, a retired FBI agent who organized the Knights of Columbus parade.

"His remarks were right on the money. The pendulum has swung too far and people have said 'enough is enough.' We'll see it swing back."

Scalia used the event to repeat familiar criticisms that the Constitution is being liberally interpreted.

"It is a Constitution that morphs while you look at it like Plasticman," contending that the framers of the Constitution did not intend for God to be stripped from the government.

"That is contrary to our whole tradition, to 'in God we trust' on the coins, to Thanksgiving proclamations, to (Congressional) chaplains, to tax exemption for places of worship, which has always existed in America."


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