A U.S. Supreme Court justice must rule based on the strict interpretation of the law, not on one’s religious beliefs, according to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Scalia was keynote speaker at Duquesne University School of Law’s Centennial Celebration in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
“I am sometimes asked if my beliefs as a Catholic – I would rather say my nature or my identity as a Catholic – affects my legal decision. My response is ‘I certainly hope not.’” Scalia said.
“The laws that I apply have a fair meaning. And that meaning is no different for a Catholic than it is for a Jew, any more than it is different for a woman and a man, or a white man and a black.”
Scalia said he was “embarrassed when someone thanks me for championing their cause” in reference to opponents of abortion.
“In my honest reading of the Constitutional text, it addresses the subject (abortion) not at all, which means it is left up to the individual states,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for a Catholic law school education, said Scalia. The beliefs and morals of a Catholic education are important in the writing of laws and formulating legislation.
Scalia said that while he can be a judge and be a Catholic, his beliefs as a Catholic are still of upmost importance.
Referring to protestors against the death penalty that he encountered on his way to the presentation, Scalia said, “If I thought that the Catholic doctrine held that the death penalty to be immoral, I would resign.”
Scalia explained that while he doesn’t make his judicial decisions based on his religion, he wouldn’t work with a judicial system that was counter to the laws of Catholicism.
Scalia suggested the most important aspect of a Catholic law school education may be have nothing to do with “making students better lawyers, but everything to do with making them better men and women.”
He explained with his well-known humor: “Moral formation is a respectable goal for any educational institution, even at a law school.”
Scalia suggested education, without the moral compass instilled by religion, can in fact, be dangerous. “Proof of that pudding is Nazi Germany.” he said, “It was the leader of the world...And it was that knowledgeable, that intelligent and well educated society that gave birth to Nazism.”
The importance of a Catholic educational environment, according to Scalia, is not only a strong educational system, but the services to assist students to realize that “the here- and- now is less important when all is said and done, than the here-after.”
Religion and education do not need to be separated to be successful, said Scalia, including in funding efforts.
“Almost all of the great private colleges and universities in this country were founded and funded for religious reasons,” said Scalia, listing several well-known and prestigious institutions of higher education.
However, Scalia feels many educational institutions are “insisting upon diversity in all other aspects of life,” but they are “bent in eliminating diversity in moral judgment, particularly moral judgment based upon religious beliefs.”
Citing the decision of the American Association of Law Schools which formerly denied membership to any institution that “did not share its view of acceptability of homosexual conduct.”
The rule was changed, to allow religious affiliated schools to discriminate against homosexual conduct, not orientation - changed, said Scalia, because of protests from religious law schools.
In closing remarks, Scalia urged Duquesne to “not yield as some Catholic institutions have to this politically correct insistence upon suppression of moral judgment to this distorted view of what diversity in America means.”
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