Three Times Justice Antonin Scalia Stood Up for Religious Liberty

The United States lost one of its most ardent defenders of religious liberty on Saturday when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died at age 79.

Scalia, a Roman Catholic, whose son is a priest, often found himself on the wrong side of liberal court rulings that undermined the Constitution but on the right side of American history. He never wavered in his view that the founders believed in God and built a nation with Him in mind, even as they forbade religious favoritism.

Scalia made that case again just a few weeks ago in a speech to a Louisiana Catholic school, but he was best known for doing it more formally, in a courtroom setting. Here are three times when Scalia took stands for the free exercise of religion even though it wasn’t popular with his colleagues:

1. Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School v. Grumet (1989, 6-3 decision)

Scalia chastised the majority for overturning the boundaries of a New York school district because they were drawn to mirror those of the Hasidic Jewish community. Scalia said the ruling “continues, and takes to new extremes, a recent tendency in the opinions of this court to turn the establishment clause into a repealer of our nation's tradition of religious toleration.”

2. Texas Monthly Inc. v. Bullock (1989, 6-3 decision)

Scalia called the court’s ruling against Texas’ tax break for religious publications “a judicial demolition project” that affected at least 15 states. “It is not right -- it is not constitutionally healthy -- that this court should feel authorized to refashion anew our civil society's relationship with religion, adopting a theory of church and state that is contradicted by current practice, tradition and even our own case law.”