Brother Tayler’s Sunday Secular Sermon: Scalia must go

June 14, 2015 • 1:15 pm

Brother Jeffrey Tayler has once again undermined Salon’s reputation for osculating faith: his latest piece of anti-theism is about Antonin Scalia’s irrational and extreme Catholicism, which has always surprised me (I still get astounded when someone with a lot of brains is deeply religious): “Justice Scalia is unfit to serve: A justice who rejects science for religion is of unsound mind.

Last week I posted about Scalia’s statement, at his granddaughter’s high school graduation, that humanity is very young: “Humanity has been around for at least some 5,000 years or so.” As I noted at the time, it’s not clear that this means Scalia accepts the Bishop Ussher-ian age of the Earth from Genesis, whether he was just referring to civilization itself (still about twice as old as Scalia’s estimate), or whether he was just making a lighthearted remark. But one can’t so easily discount Scalia’s statement in 2013 that Satan and Hell are for real (see my post on that interview here).  Dr. Tayler diagnoses Scalia with a chronic case of Faith Derangement Syndrome and, at the end, calls for Scalia to resign (that has a snowball’s chance in Scalia’s Hell!):

Sufferers of faith-derangement syndrome (FDS) exhibit the following symptoms: unshakable belief in the veracity of manifest absurdities detailed in ancient texts regarding the origins of the cosmos and life on earth; a determination to disseminate said absurdities in educational institutions and via the media; a propensity to enjoin and even enforce (at times using violence) obedience to regulations stipulated in said ancient texts, regardless of their suitability for contemporary circumstances; the conviction that an invisible, omnipresent, omniscient authority (commonly referred to as “God”) directs the course of human and natural events, is vulnerable to propitiation and blandishments, and monitors individual human behavior, including thought processes, with an especially prurient interest in sexual activity.

Secondary symptoms exhibited by sufferers of FDS comprise feelings of righteousness and sensations of displeasure, even outrage, when collocutors question, reject or refute the espousal of said absurdities. Tertiary symptoms, often present among individuals self-classifying as “evangelicals”: Duggar-esque hairdos and Tammy Bakker-ian makeup, preternaturally sunny dispositions and pedophiliac tendencies, sartorial ineptitude and obesity.

It’s astounding that a man Scalia’s undoubted intelligence is so soaked in irrationality. Remember, too, that in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard, a 1987 case adjudicating the constitutionality of a Louisiana law (the “Balanced Treatment Act”) requiring “creation science” taught alongside evolution in the public schools, Scalia was one of two (along with Rehnquist) who dissented in the Act’s dismissal. His dissent said, among other things, this:

Because I believe that the Balanced Treatment Act had a secular purpose, which is all the first component of the Lemon test requires, I would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for further consideration.

Scalia decided that all views should be presented, and the children should be able to decide for themselves. But why not, then, teach faith healing, like Christian “Science”, in the health classroom?

At any rate, Tayler adds this, among much else:

Arguably one of the most visible members of the nine-member body charged with the decisive resolution of our republic’s most contentious legal matters, Scalia confronts us with a sui generis challenge of great urgency: how to go about declaring a magistrate appointed for life of unsound mind and thus unfit to serve? Scalia rejects the fact of evolution – the foundation of modern biology – in favor of the opening chapter of a compendium of cockamamie fables concocted by obscure humans in a particularly dark age, evidence that his faculty of reason has suffered the debilitating impairment associated with acute FDS. He therefore cannot be relied upon to adjudicate without prejudice and should be removed from the bench henceforth.

I was sent the Tayler link by a flight attendant who had a personal encounter with Le Scalia, and not a pleasant one, either, adding in the accompanying email (which I pass along without comment):

I had that asshat on a flight once from Florida to Washington. It took all I had not to spit in his drink. He’s huge, too. He was SOOOO rude, like a spoiled and demanding child, and he had these little minions bringing his bag on and making sure he was ok and comfortable. I was so glad when he fell asleep. He was sitting in business class, of course. Maybe gawd will take him to his bosom when Hillary gets elected and she can throw another liberal in there.

23 thoughts on “Brother Tayler’s Sunday Secular Sermon: Scalia must go

  1. Scalia: “Because I believe that the Balanced Treatment Act had a secular purpose…” Any indication what that might secular purpose have been? Were there any secular theories that were not sufficiently addressed in the curriculum? Were any scientists pounding on the door, waving about the ignored parts of the literature? Had complaints come in from biological organizations? Graduate schools? Industry?

    What a willfully lying sack of bilge scrapings that man is.

    For we connoisseurs of vintage tacky commercials, FDS is an unfortunate, although I suspect not accidental, acronym .

    1. “… a secular purpose…”. Like the constitution, for example? F**wit. (Scalia of course, not Ken!)

  2. By the time I went to college, I blithely assumed that educated people didn’t believe in God and the supernatural. I’m not suer why I thought this–after all, I’d gong to Catholic schools where intelligent adults led prayers, went to mass, the whole bit. But it was obvious to me that I was able to compartmentalize, I suppose. Or maybe I assumed everyone was playing along with a wink and a nod.

    Which is to say: decades later, I still find it startling when I encounter educated people who really (seem to) believe.

    1. Some do play along. Do you think Popes believe in gods? How about Falwell? Is Scalia defending a religion or a system where his ‘people’ have a good position in the social hierarchy?

    2. Very often, I end up unable to decide: Is this person (a) an idiot, (b) a liar, or (c) insane, (d) some combination of (a), (b) and (c).

  3. Reminds me of Scalia’s dissent in the Myriad BRCA1 patent case.
    “I join the judgment of the Court, and all of its opinion except Part I–A and some portions of the rest of the opinion going into fine details of molecular biology. I am unable to affirm those details on my own knowledge or even my own belief.”
    I strongly suspect that Scalia and Thomas are young earth creationists.

  4. “It’s astounding that a man Scalia’s undoubted intelligence is so soaked in irrationality.”

    My father, an extremely intelligent, and educated renaissance man. Told me once that good lawyers, and doctors were often some of the most intelligent, yet ignorant men he knew. They knew everything about the law, or medicine, but little else. That’s probably true of scientists as well, or any field where you have to continuously educate yourself on the latest medical or scientific advances/case law. Leaving you little time learn much else.

    1. The extreme specialization you mention isn’t really applicable to SCOTUS justices; they are some of the last true generalists in the legal profession, or in American society overall.

      The Court grants plenary review in about 100 cases a year (selected from around 10,000 petitions for certiorari docketed with the Court). Year in and year out, those cases raise a broad array of issues from every field of law that presents an appropriate federal question for review. And since, as de Tocqueville noted, nearly every question in American life eventually becomes a legal issue, those cases touch on the entire spectrum of the American experience.

      For my money, one of the great generalists — of his generation or any other, in the legal profession or any other — is Jerry’s cat-buddy up there in Chicago, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Posner has authored some 40 books, ranging in subject matter from economics to ethics to literature to sex. He’s widely known to write all of his own legal opinions, and he teaches regularly at the UC law school. (In these respects, he may be the exception that proves your father’s rule.)

      At one time, a few decades back, Posner looked like a real comer to be appointed to the Supreme Court. But, never one to hide his candle under a bushel-basket, he’s been outspoken in expressing his civil libertarian views, both in his books and in public appearances, which has made him too controversial for a president to risk nominating. A shame, that.

  5. Scalia is and always has been utterly repulsive — and I almost returned my Supreme Court Bar certificate some years ago in protest of this ogre. It would have been my “contempt” of court protest.

    Ruth Bader Ginsberg, however, in my extremely limited experience in her presence is a wonderful person. Of course, she’s very small, so would not make the same impact on an airplane.

    I became a lawyer in large part because of what the US Supreme Court and lawyers in the civil rights movement were doing in the ’60s. Much like “losing ones religion”, I lost all faith and admiration for this Court I used to “worship”. Renquist was bad enough, but just as Nixon almost looks good in retrospect, Renquist is a cypher to Scalia, and with the Roberts/Alito blank-nerd judge modality, there is almost no hope. No court in 100 years is held in as much contempt and professional disregard as this one. Frankly, even the middle man is a sad clown, and the liberals, except for RBG, are 2nd-3rd rate.

    1. What I’ve always found bizarre is the notion – unquestioningly accepted and maintained and perpetuated among media and punditry of all stripes – of liberal i.e. left leaning and conservative i.e. right leaning judges.

      Does that not fly in the face of the very foundation of jurisprudence: impartiality,
      letting the facts, the evidence lead us to where they may instead of the need of feeding the confirmation bias that leanings dictate?

  6. calls for Scalia to resign (that has a snowball’s chance in Scalia’s Hell!)

    Just out of non-American interest – is it possible for a supreme Court judge to resign, other than by dieing?

    1. While justices are appointed “for life,” there is nothing preventing them from retiring if they want to. According to Wikipedia, 54 of the Court’s former justices (about half) retired rather than dying in office.

  7. I knew there was a reason i love flight attendants. Flights not so much. What a brilliant piece.

  8. I believe it is Michael Shermer who has noted that often intelligent people are better at rationalizing not so good ideas.

    Scalia was appointed by Reagan and got oddly very little tough questioning by the Senate. He was frequently a target to Alan Dershowitz’ columns.

  9. The American style of judicial review is nonsensical. What decisions it makes is totally dependent on chance – what ideology rules on the court at a particular moment. Outdated mindsets live long after they are invalidated due to lifelong terms. Even if you look at even the “good” decisions the court make they are usually a correction of earlier court malfeasance. Today we are suffering from a 30 year campaign by the radical right wing Federalist Society to take over the judiciary. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. This cancer needs to be eliminated by a constitutional amendment restricting judicial review.

  10. Scalia made an appearance on yesterday’s “Last Week Tonight” hosted by John Oliver, citing the effectiveness of Jack Bauer’s use of torture for gaining information. Jack Bauer, the fictional character from the TV show “24”. Oh Em Gee, as the kids say. This guy goes way beyond ‘shake your head’ nuts. He’s scary.

  11. When I first heard about the interview where Antonin Scalia raised the devil nonsense, I was, like most right-thinking people, appalled. Then I got a copy of the issue of New York magazine at issue and read it for myself.

    At first blush, it seemed Scalia had pulled a Poe on his interlocutor — what with, according to the Q & A, his offering the devil stuff up unbidden, in what the interviewer described as a “stage whisper,” then carrying on in faux bemusement over how the flesh-and-blood devil doesn’t make personal appearances anymore like he used to back in the Iron-Age day.

    On further consideration, however, it came to me that the explanation was much simpler and more benign: Nino’s blather about the Prince-of-Darkness-incarnate walking among us was just his way of sending a shout-out to his old duck-hunting buddy, Dick Cheney. And Nino didn’t name-check “Vice” directly as an homage to his contemporaries,* the Rolling Stones, and their tune Sympathy for the Devil (“Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name.”)

    In honor of Scalia’s nifty Stone’s tribute, it’s only fair to make a minor modification to one of Sympathy‘s key lyrics:

    I shouted out “who shot that lawyer in the face?”
    When after all it was you and me

    There’s a number of other Sympathy lyrics ripe for pastiche. As Ring Lardner used to say, you could look it up.

    But what’s puzzling me now isn’t the nature of Scalia’s game.


    *Here’s a fact that gave me a brief bout of vertigo when I first encountered it: Nino is just two years older than those glimmer twins, Mick & Keith. I’d ask you to imagine Scalia prancing around a stadium stage wearing Jagger’s Jumping-Jack-Flash outfit, the way Mick is doing this summer, but given WEIT’s global reach, some of you may be preparing for dinner, and I don’t want to put you off your feed.

  12. Psychologists have found that once you choose a side you will be impelled to defend to the last. Hardening your position as you go. Only those who can return their minds to an open state will listen. Otherwise an immovable object regardless of intelligence.

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