February 15, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – “I shall tell the Creator of the Universe you were too busy to see him,” Justice Antonin Scalia once emailed a law clerk who didn’t want to attend church with him. But it is perhaps not unfair to suspect that Scalia himself would have felt the same way, had he known his departure was so imminent. The Creator called for him nonetheless, and he is gone. A titan has fallen.
The bitter rejoicing of lesser men has already begun, as is to be expected. The godfather of conservative jurisprudence was a foil to the plans of many, and an acerbic and brilliant dissenter able to puncture the victory of more than a few others. This is why so many secular fundamentalists, having abolished Hell some time ago, wish to reinvent it in order to send Scalia there. For the thousandth time, the #LoveWins crowd shows its true colors and proves Scalia right.
On the conservative side, grief is tinged with fear. We knew Antonin Scalia as a man who feared no man, one who was resolutely committed to defending the right. The Constitution has been battered these past few decades by the full venereal force of the Sexual Revolution—and come what may, we knew that the sturdy, smiling Italian standing behind it could yet prevent it from being torn to shreds, and made it perhaps more than flimsy paper. I saw him only once, sitting behind the podium as Obama delivered his Second Inaugural Address, a declaration that the Second Reconstruction of America had begun in earnest. Scalia wore a defiant Italian grin and a black hat that a hundred bewildered reporters soon discovered was an exact replica of that worn by Thomas More. His expression seemed to echo More’s words: “You wouldn’t abandon a ship in a storm just because you couldn’t control the winds.”
The poetry of Scalia’s jurisprudence was not just that he was a warrior against the forces of secularism, but that he was a joyful warrior, one who made no apologies and wielded his pen gloriously. In his 1992 dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Scalia skewered the protectors of Roe v. Wade:
The emptiness of the “reasoned judgment” that produced Roe is displayed in plain view by the fact that, after more than 19 years of effort by some of the brightest (and most determined) legal minds in the country, after more than 10 cases upholding abortion rights in this Court, and after dozens upon dozens of amicus briefs submitted in this and other cases, the best the Court can do to explain how it is that the word “liberty” must be thought to include the right to destroy human fetuses is to rattle off a collection of adjectives that simply decorate a value judgment and conceal a political choice…
Reason finds no refuge in this jurisprudence of confusion.
Scalia was detested by abortion activists because he pointed out the obvious, wittily and often: Abortion is not found in the Constitution. Stating that laws cannot be passed against abortion is ridiculous. And the right of pro-lifers to make their case supersedes the fictitious right to abortion concocted by the incoherent creators of Roe v. Wade. Scalia refused to even pat their sacred cows on the nose before he summarily shot them, and they hated him for it.
We also loved Scalia because he was completely unashamed of his faith. Rather than squirming in the presence of contempt, he instead fought back with a smile and a laugh. On Satan, he demanded to know of an interviewer why she seemed so bewildered: “You’re looking at me as though I’m weird…Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the devil! Most of mankind has believed in the devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil.”
Neither did Scalia have any problem defending the quaint idea that the Creator referenced in America’s founding documents may have actually created something. “The body of scientific evidence supporting creation science is as strong as that supporting evolution,” he once noted. “In fact, it may be stronger…. The evidence for evolution is far less compelling than we have been led to believe. Evolution is not a scientific ‘fact,’ since it cannot actually be observed in a laboratory. Rather, evolution is merely a scientific theory or ‘guess’… It is a very bad guess at that. The scientific problems with evolution are so serious that it could accurately be termed a ‘myth.’”
And of course, the incredulous secularists, styling themselves the descendants of the Enlightenment as well as the monkeys, scorned him all the more. He knew, and he didn’t care. “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools,” Scalia informed the crowd at one speaking engagement, “and He has not been disappointed. Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”
But much of the torrential outpouring of acid hatred over the past weekend is by activists who still sting from Justice Scalia’s dissent from the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing gay marriage. Scalia not only eviscerated every argument in favor of gay marriage, he pointed out what is growing increasingly obvious to Christians–that the decision was a tyrannical one:
It is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create ‘liberties’ that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”
In his prophetic opinion, Scalia did not even spare his fellow justices, calling attention to their towering arrogance. “These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason,” he wrote scornfully. “They know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.”
The future looks bleaker without Scalia sitting stolidly between the Sexual Revolution and the Constitution, and standing athwart History, as Buckley once put it, “yelling Stop! at a time when no one is inclined to do so or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” The already chaotic politics of 2016 have been rocked once again, and the presidential race has become all the more consequential.
But for today, we take a moment to remember the man. Of all the personal stories being published about Antonin Scalia—Nino to his friends—one stuck out to me the most, a memory shared by Jeffrey Tucker. He recalls seeing Scalia sitting quietly at the back of church after all the other congregants had departed, and seeing a lone woman approach the Justice:
What was a bit unusual about this woman: she had lashing sores on her face and hands. They were open sores. There was some disease, and not just physically. She behaved strangely, a troubled person that you meet in large cities and quickly walk away from. A person to avoid and certainly never touch.
For whatever reason, she walked up to Justice Scalia, who was alone. He took her hands, though they were full of sores. She leaned in to say something, and she began to cry.
He held her face next to his, and she talked beneath her tears that were now streaming down his suit. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t try to get away. He just held her while she spoke. This lasted for perhaps more than 5 minutes. He closed his eyes while she spoke, gripping her back with his hand.
He didn’t recoil. He stood there with conviction. And love.
There were no cameras and no other onlookers besides myself, and he had no idea I was there.
Finally she was finished. What he said comforted her, and she gained composure. She pulled away, ready to go. He held her rough, sore-filled hands and had a few final words that I could not hear. He gave her some money. And then she walked away.
Justice Antonin Scalia once said that the only thing not for sale was character—and character he had. His robust defence of religious liberty, his skewering of secular fundamentalists, his courageous refusal to back down even as the cultural tides turned against him—these will be missed. And so will he.