Even though I may agree with him on occasion, I still think that, taken as a whole, Justince Scalia is an idiot. The Tribune reports that Scalia took the unusual step of summarizing his dissent in the 10 commandments case from the bench:
Scalia's dissent was personal in tone. He recounted that on Sept. 11, 2001, he was in Rome for an international conference when terrorists attacked the U.S. Upon hearing President Bush end his address to the nation with "God bless America," a European judge said such religious expressions would be forbidden in his country.
In Europe, "religion is to be strictly excluded from the public forum," Scalia wrote. "This is not, and never was, the model adopted by America."
I have two problems with this. One is that conservatives always attack court decisions that protect civil liberties with the pseudo-argument that judges are ruling based on the permissive cultural preferences of the "Elite" rather than on the law. But here, Scalia is making a decision based on his personal reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks and the way they make him feel about religion. If the cultural sensitivities of the "Elite" are inadmissable in court, what makes the cultural sensitivities of the Idiot Mob any more relevant?
My second problem with Scalia's little story is that it is completely untrue. Here in the real world, European countries do not enforce a separation of church and state. In fact, most of them have an official state church - Catholic in France and Italy, Anglican in England, etc. The establishment of religion in Europe is directly related to the decline of religious faith on that continent, as the entanglement of church and state led Europeans to regard both as mouthpieces for the corrupt powers that be.
In America, by contrast, church and state have been separate. The result has been the flourishing of religious thought and practice, since religion was something people did for themselves, not something dictated to them by authority. If there's something that has made the American experience different, that something is precisely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The past fifty years or so, however, in which religious groups, especially evangelical protestants, have been organizing for political power, have not coincidentally seen a precipitous falloff in church attendance. And look at the effect on religion itself. The evangelical movement, for all its stunning anti-intellectualism, was once also known for its radical egalitarianism. It was embraced by, and embraced abolitionists, anarchists, and trade unionists. These days the movement has become chief apologist for the rapacious corporate elite. How? By getting caught in the web of the quest for political power.
Look at Iran. Officially a religious dictatorship, the majority of its population was born after the 1979 revolution. And today's young Iranian men are far more likely to be interested in heroin and girls than in Shi'ite Islam. If they wanted to raise a religious generation, they would outlaw Islam - then all the cool kids would be doing it. People are like that.