WASHINGTON — The belief that religion should be excluded from any role in the public square has become the "normal" and "accepted" view in today's society, Princeton law professor Robert P. George warned Wednesday night at an awards dinner honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Acting as the master of ceremonies for the Catholic Information Center's celebration dinner honoring Scalia as the posthumous winner of the 2016 Saint John Paul II New Evangelization Award, George offered brief remarks about how Scalia was not afraid to stand opposed to the Left's "powerful train" that has "damaged constitutional jurisprudence" by attempting to "relegate religion to the purely private sphere of life."
George, who is also a former chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, explained that since 1947, there has been a mission to distort the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to mean that faith should be excluded from public life and concealed in the privacy of churches, temples, homes and bedrooms.
"And that has become such a normal and accepted position in our society that we forget what Justice Scalia's great predecessors, the jurists and statesmen, had to say about the good place of faith in our public life," George said.
George turned to the words of the "Great Emancipator" Abraham Lincoln, who called for a day of fasting during the heat of the Civil War in March 1963, a dark time in the nation's history when only God knew what would become of the country.
"It is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord,'" George quoted Lincoln.
"Justice Scalia was not alone … in understanding our welfare, our very survival as a nation, depended upon us being a nation under God, that recognizes God's sovereignty and realizes that we are under God's judgment," George continued. "Inspired by his example, let's go forth here from this place to take our nation to a place where it is in line with its very best traditions and with the teaching of its very greatest statesman, we will know that we are a nation under God."
George's remarks came after Scalia's former law clerk Ed Whelan, now the president of the Washington-based think tank Ethics & Public Policy Center, gave a keynote speech and quoted what Scalia said in his dissent of Lee v. Weisman, a case where the five-judge majority ruled that it's not legal for public schools to sponsor non-denominational invocations.
"Church and state would not be such a difficult subject if religion were, as the Court apparently thinks it to be, some purely personal avocation that can be indulged entirely in secret, like pornography, in the privacy of one's room,'" Scalia wrote. "For most believers it is not that, and has never been. Religious men and women of almost all denominations have felt it necessary to acknowledge and beseech the blessing of God as a people, and not just as individuals, because they believe in the protection of divine Providence."