Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told an audience Saturday that while the United States was intentionally founded without an established church, it was never intended to be “neutral” toward religion itself.
Speaking about religious freedom at Archbishop Rummel High School in a Louisiana suburb of New Orleans, Scalia insisted that in American constitutional tradition, there has always been a presumption of the benefit of religion for society.
It is “absurd” to think the Constitution bans the government from supporting religion, he said.
The Reagan appointee said there is “no place” for radical secularism in our constitutional tradition. “Where did that come from?” he asked. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”
Government was always favorable to religious practice in the United States until the 1960s, Scalia said, when “activist judges” attempted to impose their own abstract rule, rather than simply observing common practice.
The Justice also said that atheists should not try to “cram” secularism “down the throats of an American people that has always honored God on the pretext that the Constitution requires it.”
“God has been very good to us,” Scalia said. “One of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor.”
“Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways,” he said.
“There is nothing wrong with that and do not let anybody tell you that there is anything wrong with that,” he added.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.