Monday, March 10, 2008

Justice Antonin Scalia Rocks!!--Part 3


Scalia made so many good points during his lecture that it was hard to get it all written down. I took 9 pages of notes and I still wasn't able to capture everything. I had called about getting into the media section being a blogger and radio show host and I was told that I could. The problem was that I didn't see much of an advantage and I wanted to sit with my friends. In hindsight, I see that had I done that I could've recorded it and gotten good pictures but it was probably still more enjoyable being with friends.

As I mentioned in my first post Scalia went out of his way to point out that being an originalist has nothing to do with conservative or liberal. When you interpret the constitution instead of re-writing it or making it say what you want it to, you will tick off both conservatives and liberals.

To illustrate this he told a great story about a case that made conservatives, even his own wife, not happy with him:
"I was the fifth vote in the flag burning case, which said it violates the First Amendment to enact a law saying that a person cannot burn the American flag if it's his own flag. And I was there because I think the First Amendment means you are entitled to express contempt...for the government, for the president, for the Supreme Court, for the flag. As long it's your own flag that you're burning - a law that is intended to prevent you from expressing your contempt is a bad law.

I didn't like that result. If it was up to me I would have, I would have thrown...this bearded sandal wearing flag burner into jail. But, it was not up to me..."
He then went on to say that the next morning he came down to breakfast and the Washington Post was lying on the table with the case in the headlines. His wife was cooking and humming the song, "The Grand Old Flag".
He joked that he bet the Justices who believed in the living constitution never had to deal with grief like that.

Another wonderful story

Scalia gave a moving account of a conversation he had with a European Judge. The story is detailed at this site, here is the account:
"On September 11, 2001 I was attending in Rome, Italy an international conference of judges and lawyers, principally from Europe and the United States. That night and the next morning virtually all of the participants watched, in their hotel rooms, the address to the Nation by the President of the United States concerning the murderous attacks upon the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, in which thousands of Americans had been killed. The address ended, as Presidential addresses often do, with the prayer “God bless America.”

The next afternoon I was approached by one of the judges from a European country, who, after extending his profound condolences for my country’s loss, sadly observed “How I wish that the Head of State of my country, at a similar time of national tragedy and distress, could conclude his address ‘God bless ______.’ It is of course absolutely forbidden.”

Scalia isn't going to bend the constitution to say what he "wants it to say". Yet, he points out the constitution guarantees freedom of religion and that nowhere in the constitution does it give a woman "the right" to an abortion. Here is some of what he had to say regarding both issues:

Religion

In response to a question about the separation of Church and State, he made a passionate case on how America has never been a country that was neutral on religion. He said this:
"The state must be neutral...it must be neutral between religion and non-religion. Well, this is simply just not a description of America. It's just never been true. And the cases that come before the Supreme Court we prove that it's not true. We have, even though while mouthing this nonsense we have approved paid chaplains from the Congress..."
I wish I could remember more of what he said on this subject and how he said it. It was very good.

The Big A (Abortion)
"Do you think that those who, on both sides, bear in mind both sides of this issue, would like to read it into the Constitution? One side succeeded, but the other side would have done the same thing, uh, in the opposite direction. Having the court say, that the state must forbid abortions, whereas in fact, the court has said the opposite that you cannot forbid abortion.

The reality is the Constitution doesn't address the subject at all. And it's one of the many subjects not addressed by the Constitution which are therefore left to democracy. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens it's a good idea and pass a law. And if you feel the other way, persuade them the other way and repeal the law. That's flexibility. But once the Supreme Court has found that the death penalty is unconstitutional, or once it has found that there is a constitutional right to abortion, that is the end of the play. It's no use discussing it with your fellow citizens anymore. You can't do it. You can't have a death penalty. You cannot forbid, uh. You cannot place any restrictions on abortion on demand. That's flexibility? No. Those, those who want the Constitution to evolve wanted to do so precisely so that their favored positions can be made law coast to coast, now and forever, or at least until the Supreme Court changes its mind."

I will conclude with this excellent point that Scalia made:
Can we do some good things by ignoring the constitution and by embracing the living constitution? Yes, So What? Does that make it better? A broken clock is right twice a day.

**Disclaimer: I have tried to be as accurate as I can in relaying the information I heard in the lecture. I tried to get exact quotes when I could but some of it is from memory.

Previously:
Part 1
Part 2

Articles:
Justice Scalia Speaks at UCM

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