Marriage is love.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Supreme Court, the Ten Commandments, and pluralism

I have been meaning to post this article for several days. It's in The New Republic and I'm not sure that non-subscribers can get it.

God Again: The Supreme Court, the Ten Commandments, and pluralism
by Leon Wieseltier

Post date 03.15.05 | Issue date 03.21.05

"Thank you, Moses." When I heard those words outside the marshal's office at the Supreme Court the other day, I trembled for my country. I had come to hear the oral arguments in the Ten Commandments cases, and was prepared for a morning's appreciation of what Moses brought down from the mountain; but in the courtroom, not in the corridor. My liberal's back went up. Thou shalt not mistake the Torah for the Constitution. But my liberal's sigh of relief could be heard up and down the marble hall when I discovered that the revered figure who was the object of this grateful address was a jolly guard named Moses. He had just steered a gaggle of God-fearers in the direction of the great chamber. Moses had led them to the struggle for Moses. I followed behind, no mean Mosaicist myself.

It was amusing to watch the conservatives at the lectern argue that the monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol in Austin deserves the protection of the Court because it is the historical, and even the secular, symbol of a common heritage; and encouraging to discover that the justices were having none of this Christian casuistry. They seemed all to agree that the Decalogue is a religious expression, which plainly it is. None of them seemed especially horrified by this fact, at least in these settings. A reasonable distinction between the acknowledgment of religion by the state and the establishment of religion by the state was in the air, and none of the justices wished government to be hostile to religion. I will be surprised if the Court orders the slab of pious stone in Texas, or the framed commandments that hang in courthouses in Kentucky, removed...
A Choice Quote: "The morning's disputations confirmed me in my view of Antonin Scalia's lack of intellectual distinction. He is very smart, of course; but now he shows only the brilliance of a perfectly settled perspective. I have been an amateur but diligent reader of his opinions for many years, and increasingly they seem like op-eds in robes."