Justice Antonin Scalia has died. The significance of his passing on the Supreme Court, and on the nature of this election season, cannot be understated. A legendary American has died.
I’m not a lawyer. But that doesn’t mean that Justice Scalia’s legacy is any less important to me, a Christian ethicist in-training. Though I never met Justice Scalia, I have friends who knew him; and all attest to his steadfast Christian devotion. Justice Scalia was an ardent defender of the sanctity of life, conjugal marriage—and, aside from his 1990 Smith decision on religious liberty—a defender of religious liberty (c.f. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby). The loss of his witness will leave an uncertain future for those for whom these issues are paramount.
He was a hero to those within the conservative movement, of which I count myself a proud and devoted member. Scalia’s emphasis on Originalism was a return to our constitutional legacy that sought to reverse the damage done by progressive courts.
But most importantly, Justice Scalia was and will remain a hero to conservative Christians. A Catholic intellectual, Scalia’s devout Catholicism became a proxy to millions of religious conservatives throughout America who looked to him as a quasi-superhero.
Think of the impact that one justice has on the court, and the culture. Had we had a court in the 1970s consisting of more Scalias, there would never have been the outcome of Roe v. Wade. Had we had a court consisting of more Scalias, there would never have been the outcome like there was in Obergefell v. Hodges.
What his passing represents is a recommitment to the principles that ensured the liberties of our country. It means that a new generation of jurists will need to work even harder to ascend to influential courts in order to fight for moral righteousness and legal justice. Justice Scalia’s legacy, like his legal writing, is an unflappable and fiery dedication to moral truth. This is a call to arms for Christians to contend for the Permanent Things
I’ll miss Justice Scalia having never met him. When I speak, I’ll continue to quote from his irascible, flame-throwing dissents as I do on almost all other occasions. He had a prescient mind, and understood the interdependence that law has on culture, and culture on law. So much was staked on the law, and Scalia knew it.
A pillar of the 21st century American Republic has died. A defender of the Founder’s vision for the Constitution has died. A brilliant Christian intellectual and jurist has died. A husband of 55 years, father of nine, and grandfather to 28 has died. But his legacy will live on.
Antonin Scalia. RIP.