On Tuesday, March 4th Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia spoke at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

Antonin Scalia in Warrensburg, part 1

Antonin Scalia in Warrensburg, part 2

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Scalia:

…the abortion issue. 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. [laughter]…

…Originalism does not cut out in the direction of conservative versus liberal. I’m a social conservative. I confess, I’m a social conservative. [applause]. I mean, I’m a, I’m a law and order type. So you would think that I would use whatever I could to put these people away. Not, not, not if it contradicts the words of the Constitution

…[BMW v. Gore] Not Al, this is a different Gore. [laughter] Thank God. [laughter]. Once was enough. [applause]…

…Whereas, if you know, if you’re an originalist, you, you, you often have to, uh, come to conclusions you do not particularly like. 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. [laughter] But, it was not up to me…

…[Marbury v. Madison and the last word on the law]…I mean it’s fine for the Supreme Court to talk about the evolving standards of decency of our society. Do you think we know what those evolving standards are? I’m afraid to ask. [laughter] We work in this marble palace in Washington. I don’t know what’s going on out there. I’ll tell you who knows. The members of Congress, especially the House. [laughter] They have their finger on the pulse because they have to run every two years. So, if that’s what the Constitution is supposed to be, just keeping up with the evolving standards of decency of society, it should be left to the Congress…

Questions for Justice Scalia. Read by James Staab from written questions submitted by the audience:

[Is there such a thing as a “super precedent”?]…You know, Dred Scott was not a very good precedent. It was not accepted at all. And I’d say the same thing about Roe versus Wade…

…I would consider Roe a mini-precedent…

[If you could have dinner with any member of the court, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?] Ruth. I have dinner with Ruth once a year. Anyway [laughter, applause] And I certainly wouldn’t want to have dinner with a dead man. Who would[laughter]…

[Do you see the court being increasingly persuaded by international law? And if so, what will be the impact on our legal system?] La, la, la. That’s a whole ‘nother speech, I [laughter] I cannot begin to answer…

…on the assumption. On the assumption that we’re all engaged in the same enterprise. Human rights. Surely there is, objectively, a right and wrong answer to human rights. Right? There must be. So there it is up there – Platonic human rights – and the job of all judges throughout the world is to figure out what that right answer is. And since we’re all engaged in the right answer enterprise, they cite us, we cite them. And that’s what’s going on. It’s basically a faulty enterprise. Because, assuredly, there is a right and wrong answer to human rights, but not every society agrees on the same right and wrong answers. And you ought to be finding the answers that your society believes in. And the ones that American society believes in are in the Constitution

[Torture]…it’s a bad thing to do. But, you know, not everything that is bad is unconstitutional…

…You’ve got to drive out of your mind the notion that everything that is stupid or bad is unconstitutional. It’s just not true…

[What is your opinion on the separation of church and state?] [sigh] That’s another whole speech [laughter]…the most disreputable portion of our jurisprudence, the Supreme Court jurisprudence, is the religion clauses of the First Amendment…

…what we’ve mostly messed up is the establishment clause…

…[quoting Justice Douglas] “We are a religious people who’s institutions presuppose a supreme being. When the state accommodates its practices to the religious needs of our people it acts in the best of our traditions…”

…[in the present] 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…

…absolute, uh, impartiality between the denominations of religion? Yes. But being able to favor religion over non-religion it’s absurd to think that that’s the rule. And is none the less the rule that my court keeps mouthing. It’s a lie. [applause]…

After the event was over and the crowd was exiting the hall and I was leaving the press area I came across a friend who was still sitting in her seat waiting for the traffic jam to disperse. I asked her what she thought about Justice Scalia’s speech. She replied, “When he was talking about religion he became what he criticized…”

Student protesters on the Quad