Justice Scalia Praises the Separation of Church and State

Justice Scalia recently gave some remarks at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas, remarks that have been reported and commented on in several places. Ostensibly the speech was about whether capitalism or socialism is more consistent with Christian virtue.

But I was there and heard the lecture in its entirety; and it sounded to me like Justice Scalia lavished praise on the separation of church and state. One consistent theme repeated several times by the Justice–at both the beginning and the end of the talk–was the patent unimportance of the titular subject. For the Christian, Justice Scalia said, the choice of one’s political ideology (the choice between capitalism and socialism, for example) is about as consequential as the choice of one’s toothpaste. One does not choose a political ideology either to become a better Christian or to inspire greater Christian virtue in others, and certainly not to inspire Christian virtue in government. Christ was not interested in government or its machinations. These are all issues that ought to be small beer for the Christian.

The lecture was cleverly keyed to sound pleasingly evangelical notes. When you’re in Texas, after all, you’d better swear you hate the Redskins, and Justice Scalia knew well enough to say so. The Justice emphasized a familiar and important set of ideas that has long supported one hoary strain of the American separation of church and state with deep Christian roots: that the cities of God and man are and forever will remain apart.

After which, in response to an audience question about the area of law done greatest disservice by the Supreme Court, he thought for a moment, and replied, “The Establishment Clause.” Christian law and politics watchers, take note.

3 responses

  1. “Christ was not interested in government or its machinations.”

    A truly ridiculous and Biblically illiterate assertion. The Lord’s statement that there are things to be rendered to Caesar, and things to be rendered to God, is the most important distinction having to do with government in all of human history.

    John Lofton, Director
    The God/Government Project
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-God-And-Government-Project/494314250654693?ref=ts&fref=ts

  2. Mr. Lofton, I hope you understand that I was representing Justice Scalia’s view as I understood it in his lecture.

    Also, I take it that the statement you quote can be read as consistent with the position that Christ was not particularly interested in government–i.e., the “things to be rendered to Caesar.” A person who is not interested in politics can nevertheless say something important about politics.

  3. In no way can what Christ said about God/Caesar “be read as consistent with the position that Christ was not particularly interested in government.” God created civil government. He says what it is to do. And magistrates are His “ministers” (Romans 13). Sounds to me like He is VERY and particularly interested in government.

    John Lofton, Director
    The God/Government Project
    Recovering Republican
    JLof@aol.com

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-God-And-Government-Project/494314250654693?ref=ts&fref=ts

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