Jews are safer with Christians in charge than in a country that observes the separation of church and state, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said recently at a New York synagogue, according to a headline on the Web site CommonDreams.org.
Scalia reportedly told an interfaith conference at Manhattan’s Shearith Israel synagogue, home to America’s oldest Jewish congregation, that the main reason Hitler was able to carry out the Holocaust was the separation of church and state.
The Associated Press and Jerusalem Post reported comments by the man most likely to be the Supreme Court’s chief justice that were largely ignored by other media, the self-described progressive non-profit citizens’ organization said Thursday.
Scalia said the founding fathers never used the phrase separation of church and state and that rigid separation would be bad for both America and for the Jews. He cited Europe as an example.
“Do you think it’s going to make Jews safer?” he said. “It didn’t prove that way in Europe.”
Scalia said “There is something wrong with the principle of neutrality” toward religion as applied by courts today. Neutrality envisioned by the founders “is not neutrality between religiousness and nonreligiousness; it is between denominations of religion,” he said.
Scalia said official examples of faith expression go back to America’s establishment, such as the word “God” on currency, chaplains in the military, tax exemption for churches and the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“None of this is compatible with what we say when we express the so-called principle of neutrality,” Scalia said.
“I suggest that our jurisprudence should comport with our actions.”
Scalia last year removed himself from the Supreme Court’s review of whether “under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance because of statements he made about references to God in public life.
“You will not hear the word ‘God’ cross the lips of a French premier or an Italian head of state,” he said. “But that has never been the American way.”
Advocates for church-state separation condemned Scalia’s comments.
“Justice Scalia has repeatedly expressed wrong-headed views on the separation of church and state, but his latest remarks are truly outrageous,” said Joe Conn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “To even suggest that church-state separation played a part in bringing about the Holocaust shows an appalling ignorance of history and a complete lack of judicial temperament.”
Common Dreams columnist Thom Hartmann said that rather than separating church and state, Hitler used the German state church to aid his rise to power. Hartmann linked to a National Holocaust Museum site showing photos of religious leaders giving a collective Nazi salute.
Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists said Scalia, “like most theocrats, persists in revising history to fit his ideology.”
“The truth is, one of the biggest reasons why Europe is so much more secular than America today is because the church failed so dismally in facing the Nazi menace,” Prescott, who is also president of the Oklahoma chapter of American United for Separation of Church and State, said in his weblog.
“It’s not hard to project the same result for this nation once people perceive the tragic effects of the unholy alliance between the evangelical theocrats and the neo-conservative empire builders who are forming our current foreign policy.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.