Monday, June 27, 2005

More on monotheism

The Supreme Court published its opinion in Mccreary County v. ACLU today, holding 5-4 that a government entity's purpose in posting the Ten Commandments in a courthouse is the deciding factor as to whether the Establishment Clause has been violated. That, at least, is what my 25 second review of the first page of the case suggests. When I read the entire opinion, I may have to alter that summary.

I only devoted 25 seconds to the majority opinion because I wanted to point out a couple of things about Scalia's dissent. Namely, Scalia seems to be moving his jurisprudence closer to the overtly theocratic sort we see coming out of the 4th Circuit. He does so with his usual wit and intelligence, but it's still kind of scary. Consider this statement:
"What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle."

On its face, this is perfectly reasonable. Nobody wants judges imposing their opinions, personal or ideological, willy-nilly. It'd be a mite bit hard to abide by law that keeps changing. On the other hand, nobody wants judges imposing consistent, principled opinions if those principles are discriminatory, undemocratic or otherwise flawed. This raises the question then, "What principle would Scalia apply in this case if he were writing for the majority?" A little further down in the opinion, Scalia answers this question. He says:
"With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits [the] disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned
deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists."

I've taken the quote out of context, but it pretty well captures Scalia's opinion. It's okay to post the Ten Commandments at any time. In fact, it's okay to discriminate against non-monotheists. Why? Because according to his reading of history, that's exactly what the Founding Fathers did and it represents the values they codified in our Constitution. Wrong? I think so. Scary? You bet. And sounding not dissimilar to Wilkinson's opinion in Simpson v. Chesterfield County. Anyway, I'll read the full opinion and share any further thoughts I might have. I just thought I'd point out the cheery fact that the religious wingnuts still can't muster the majority it would take to establish their little monotheistic (and eventually Christian) utopia.