Scalia: Morality not job of judges

Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

STARKVILLE – Judges are no better equipped to decide society's moral issues than anyone else, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court told an audience at Mississippi State University on Thursday night.

He delivered this year's Lamar Conerly Honors Lecture, sponsored by Shackouls Honors College. Some 350 attended, with more than 100 more turned away for lack of space.

In a speech titled, “Mullahs of the West: Judges as Authoritative Expositors of the Moral Law,” Scalia said just as “government by bureaucracy” proved a failed effort to remove politics from economic decisions, court-dictated morality is likewise doomed to fail.

“It is blindingly clear that judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to determine what is moral,” he insisted.

Follow the Constitution
Mocking those who say the Constitution is open to changing interpretation, Scalia said, “It will prove impossible to take politics out of the year-by-year refashioning of society's official views on human rights.”

“It's quite impossible to take politics out of policy decisions,” he added. “That is, for those of us who love democracy, a blessed reality.”

The Harvard-educated Scalia lambasted judicial appointments based on personal philosophy rather than ability in order to load courts with judges who agree with popular but unconstitutional positions.

“The principal function of the courts is not to do what the majority wants, but what the Constitution prescribes,” he said.

Scalia, whom the New York Times once described as America's “funniest Supreme Court justice,” drew many laughs. One of his biggest was when he declined to answer an audience question about his views on the Second Amendment, on which the court will hear a test case in March. The justice retorted to the questioner, “You trying to get me recused, are you?”

Contact Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at 281-1069 or

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