Blogs > Cliopatria > Chris Daly: Scalia's Error

Mar 14, 2005 4:38 pm

Chris Daly: Scalia's Error

To the Editor

In his questioning of attorneys in the cases involving displays of the Ten Commandments in courthouses, Justice Antonin Scalia reveals a deeply disconcerting view of the very essence of America's system of government. In court, he called the Ten Commandments "a symbol of the fact that government derives its authority from God."

Justice Scalia may believe that, but it is not a matter of fact. Indeed, his view represents a profound misreading of our history. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson addressed the issue directly when he wrote that "Governments [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed."

It is important to note that at the time, the founders were embarked on the radical course of rejecting monarchy with its rule by divine right and creating a government explicitly based on a different principle.

Besides, if governments derive their authority from God, how could we ever alter or abolish them?

Prof. Chris Daly
Boston University

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Lorraine Margaret Paul - 10/19/2005

Perhaps it is my mistake as I have always thought of government being secular not god-driven, that is, until I started to read literature from the modern-day United States.

If we are going to ignore the separation of God and State, which god should it be? Even within Christianity there are many divisions on doctrine, and several versions of the Bible.

Also, every mainsteam religion is patriarchal so where does that leave me and the other 50% or so of the world population?

What is this obsession the United States has with religion? Sometimes it appears that American politicians are waving their flag in one hand and the Bible in the other. And are as insincere about one as the other.

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