Magazine article Church & State

Scalia Escalates Attacks on Church-State Separation at New York Conference

Magazine article Church & State

Scalia Escalates Attacks on Church-State Separation at New York Conference

Article excerpt

America's Founding Fathers did not use the phrase "separation of church and state" and intended for religion to always play a role in government, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a New York City audience in late November.

Speaking at a conference on religious freedom at Shearith Israel Synagogue in Manhattan, Scalia criticized the idea of government remaining neutral toward religion, saying that was never what the founders intended. Instead, he insisted, they merely supported even-handed treatment among religious denominations.

"The Founding Fathers never used the phrase 'separation of church and state,'" Scalia said. He argued that a rigid division between the institutions has done nothing to make Jews safer.

"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?" he asked. "I don't think so."

To further his claim, Scalia pointed to a few examples of official religiosity in America: 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.

Many listeners at the event took this to mean that Scalia was blaming the Holocaust on church-state separation. If this is indeed what he believes, critics pointed out that Scalia needs a history lesson.

The massive work The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer details the way Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party used churches to their own ends. …

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