Promoting his new book “Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived,” Christopher Scalia gave an extremely popular address at the Conservative Leadership Conference on Saturday.
It was an effective address because the son of the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice knew people were there to hear and learn about his father. In compiling Antonin Scalia’s remarks, he noted that he was “struck by the variety of speeches, and wanted this collection to be enjoyed by non-legal specialists.” No doubt it succeeds in that respect.
Scalia was almost always speaking and writing, even by way of his legal decisions, to educate the citizenry. Of course, many legal scholars and those interested in policy flipped first to hear what Scalia had to say about an issue before the high court. A few years back I read, “Scalia Dissents: Writings of the Supreme Court’s Wittiest, Most Outspoken Justice” and it piqued my interest in originalism as a judicial philosophy. It made sense to me, especially as a former seminary graduate. I am always striving to be faithful to the Biblical text. It should be no different for our Constitution.
Scalia noted in his remarks that his dad did not have a villain in mind for his speeches except for the idea of a “living constitution.” Scalia declared that the living constitution gives “judges too much power over the people and legislature.” As Justice Scalia liked to say, “The living constitution can take rights away just as easy as it can grant them.” Afterall, restraints on the power of government are more important than our modern or contemporary understanding of rights. “If you care passionately about something has become the only test to determine if something is constitutional. How passionately do you care?” Scalia once wrote.
He implored students to read “The Federalist Papers,” especially law students. Thankfully because of Scalia and The Federalist Society there is a new generation of lawyers and judges who have been shaped by judicial restraint and founding principles.
Most importantly, Scalia believed that society requires religious virtue to thrive and sustain itself. He often quoted Cardinal John Henry Newman who said, “Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another.”
Scalia remains immensely quotable and the continued interest in his legacy and judicial philosophy is only beneficial to our Republic.