Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia should recuse himself from future church-state cases that reach the high court in light of remarks he made in Virginia on Jan. 12, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Scalia, speaking to a crowd of about 150 in Fredericksburg to mark a "Religious Freedom Day," asserted that America's Founding Fathers never meant to "exclude God from the public forums and from political life."
"Scalia sounds like a TV preacher, not a Supreme Court justice," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "His job is to uphold the Constitution, not promote religiosity."
Lynn said Scalia's comments are offensive and incorrect. "Scalia seems out of touch with modern life," said Lynn. "At a time when politicians invoke religious rhetoric constantly and legislators unveil new schemes to funnel tax money to religion through 'faith-based initiatives,' it hardly seems that religion has been excluded from government."
"If anything," continued Lynn, "thanks to Scalia and his political allies, we're moving closer to government-sponsored religion every day."
Lynn was especially appalled that Scalia criticized a lower federal appeals court for striking down the use of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Lynn noted that the case is still on appeal and could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
"Supreme Court justices are not supposed to announce their views before a case reaches them," noted Lynn. "Since Scalia can't seem to abide by that simple rule, perhaps it's best if he just stayed out of future church-state controversies. It's obvious his mind is made up before he's even heard the argument."
During his 10-minute speech, Scalia endorsed symbolic uses of religion by government, such as "In God We Trust" on currency, chaplains in the military, "non-denominational" prayer before public school sporting events and the use of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.