In a recent interview published in “New York Magazine” between Justice Antonin Scalia and journalist Jennifer Senior, Scalia said he believes as a Catholic that heaven, hell, and the devil all exist. By her responses, it is apparent that Senior is doubtful of the legitimacy of Scalia’s belief.
She shouldn’t be. A 2011-2012 poll conducted by Gallup found that 77 percent of adult American citizens self-identify as religious, and that more than nine in 10 of these religious Americans are Judeo-Christian. And yet our country’s elites – such as the culture-creators in news media and secular academia, and the policy-makers in Washington – seem to agree that any “faith” found in America’s collective consciousness is dead.
So why, if at least half of American citizens are religious, is talking about faith as more than just a hobby viewed as exotic and strange?
The sloganeering of the phrase “separation of church and state” might have something to do with it. Originally it meant that there could be no state-sponsored church. Today, however, many understand “separation of church and state” as banning religious inclination and religious people from public spaces. It’s toted around as a trump card by any and all who find religion to be problematic to them personally. It is a tool used to silence people such as Scalia, and to advance agendas under the name of unbiased, objective discussion.
But absolute objectivity is nearly impossible for subjective beings. Because human experience is not clinical, it is impossible to completely remove personal life from politics. Because we are not robots, the moral character of each individual person in government will always influence their decision-making. And personal morality, personal opinion, will always be influenced by a person’s religion. Or lack of one.
If “separation of church and state” were really about being fair to all peoples, then we’d have the freedom to openly dialogue about each official’s personal beliefs. After all, the best way to keep “biases” in check is to be honest about them. If “separation of church and state” is meant to prohibit the discussion of religion by public officials because to do so is to be biased, then condemning religion because of personal beliefs that do not support religion is equally biased, and should also end. Neutrality should be king. Which is as impossible, ridiculous and unhealthy for right government as it sounds.
Both non-religious peoples and religious peoples have an equal right to be heard, and it is necessary to the survival of our nation that both also have the freedom to do so without being shamed by an intellectual oligarchy. Our nation has suffered and will continue to suffer as a result of viewing different cultural and religious alignments as a threat. Justice Scalia is a member of the silent majority that, for the sake of their country, should stay silent no longer.