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Life Arts    H3'ed 2/23/16

Scalia Lovefest? Not So Fast

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Whether or not Scalia was actually a member of Opus Dei, he imposed his socially medieval religious perspectives on the nation using constitutional "originalism" as a cover.

The relatively progressive National Catholic Reporter, which is independent of the church, wrote an article on Scalia on February 15, which stated:

"There have been thousands of words written about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13. Most describe his political and legal views, which were very conservative. But I have read very little about his religious beliefs. And they were easily as conservative as his legal views.

Scalia was a Roman Catholic, one of six on the Supreme Court. But Scalia was a very traditional Roman Catholic. He was not comfortable with the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. He was so traditional that, in fact, he searched out and attended a Tridentine Mass in Latin when he lived in Chicago, and later in Washington, D.C. Reportedly, he travelled to St. Catherine of Siena church in Great Falls, Va., to attend a Latin Mass -- a distance from Washington, D.C.

And of course, he was married with nine children. "Being a devout Catholic means you have children when God gives them to you," he told his biographer, Joan Biskupic. One of his sons, Paul, entered the priesthood."

Needless to say the Catholic Church in the United States - and Pope Francis as the leader of the international church - bypassed Scalia in many areas by light years. Scalia's religious paleolithic outlook particularly emerged in his scorn for LGBTQ rights, belittling of women's rights issues, and separation of church and state issues, among many others.

Antonin Scalia - Caricature
Antonin Scalia - Caricature
(Image by DonkeyHotey)
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JB: Thanks; that was helpful. You've mentioned the legal constitutional theory of originalism. How prevalent is it among federal judges and legal scholars?

MK: Unfortunately, the legal theory of originalism is prevalent among many right wing judges, particularly Republican-appointed Federalist Society members of the bench. "Originalism" and its cousin, "strict constructionism," are the refuge of reactionary scoundrels who need to hide behind legal mumbo jumbo to assert white patriarchal values and legal opinions.

There is some minor bickering among a few originalists between whether originalists should base judicial decisions on the original intent of the framers of the Constitution, or on the contextual meaning "to a reasonable" person at the time of the Constitution's ratification in each of the founding states. Scalia leaned toward the latter in terms of this legal cult.

What is most important to remember, however, is not some Federalist Society cocktail party banter over minor differences of opinion about originalism. The heart of the matter is that the white males who created the Constitution sanctioned slavery, placed the ownership of property as a keystone of the new nation, saw no role for women or nonwhites in voting, and created the Constitution in the context of white male patriarchy. Furthermore, many of them, particularly adherents of James Madison, believed that democracy should be left to the elites.

In his new book, "What Kind of Creatures Are We," Noam Chomsky writes that "the main framer" of the Constitution - Madison - was worried about crafting a document that would preserve the oligarchy. Madison wrote in his notes about how to word the Constitution that the founders needed "to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority" and that "if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure."

Despite subsequent amendments over the years that legally expanded voting rights, in theory, to all US citizens, Scalia used "originalist" mumbo jumbo not so much to maintain the integrity of the Constitution. His real interest was in trying to restore the racist, patriarchal, wealthy property and financial privileges of white males.

Scalia used originalism in that context: the thinking and elitist background of those who wrote it. In many ways, he wanted the US to return to an age of white male propertied-class dominance.

JB: Within minutes of the announcement of Scalia's death, Republicans piled on to block any chance of Obama's nominating a replacement. What are your thoughts or predictions about what lies ahead in that department in the last year of the current administration?

MK: I have two thoughts about what is behind the Republican Senate undermining the language of the Constitution, which clearly states that it is the president's responsibility to make an appointment to the Supreme Court (federal bench): Article II, Section 2: "[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint"Judges of the Supreme Court."

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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