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Is the US Constitution neutral about secularism?

So two places on the Gawker-verse are mentioning that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia does not like government secularism.

Let's figure out whether he has any evidence behind his claim, or if he's just making stuff up.


His claim

The Supreme Court's "latest take on the subject," Scalia told students, "which is quite different from previous takes, is that the state must be neutral, not only between religions, but between religion and non religion. That's just a lie. Where do you get the notion that this is all unconstitutional? You can only believe that if you believe in a morphing Constitution."

Justice Scalia "said Wednesday that secularists are wrong when they argue the Constitution requires religious references to be banished from the public square."

"we do God honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies. There's nothing wrong with that. It is in the best of American traditions, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution."


it's "utterly absurd" to suggest that "the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non religion."

What does the US Constitution say about religion?

Article 6: no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.


Article 2 Section 1: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof


That's it. That's all the US Constitution says about religion.

Everyone interprets Article 6's mention of religious tests to mean that the US cannot require federal employees, of any kind, to be a particular religion. That, to me, says that the US's employees can be secular.


Article 2, Section 1's mention of the President swearing or affirming to uphold the Constitution allows for Presidents to use a religious swearing-in ceremony or not, depending on what their personal beliefs are. That, to me, says that the US's President can be secular.

Amendment 1 mentions that Congress, as the federal law-making body of the US, can not establish a state religion or pass laws that prohibit people from freely exercising their religion. This Amendment gets somewhat tricky to interpret because who are the people that it applies to? To me, I think the Amendment is referring to everyone in the US, whether they're federal employees or not. So, to me, that says that the US's employees can be secular.


Does Antonin Scalia's claim have any evidence?

The US Constitution gives explicit statements supporting the ability of US employees, including the US President, to be whatever religion they choose to be, including none. That implicitly supports the argument that the US Constitution has no preference, whatsoever, for any religion, including none. That seems to support the idea that the federal government should be neutral between religion and non-religion.


In this situation, Antonin Scalia seems to be making stuff up. The US Constitution gives absolutely no explicit reason that the federal government should not be neutral between religion and non-religion.

Top image of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia via Stephen Masker via Flickr.

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