Agudath Israel of America is saddened by the sudden passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and conveys its condolences to the Justice’s family.
Through the efforts of his good friend Nathan Lewin, Justice Scalia was kind enough to participate in Agudath Israel functions twice: in 1989, when he hosted Agudath Israel’s national leadership mission to Washington in the U.S. Supreme Court; and in 2008, when he was the guest speaker at Agudath Israel’s 86th annual dinner in the New York Hilton. On both of these occasions Justice Scalia made clear his view of America as a society built upon a foundation of religious tradition. He also made clear his affinity with religious communities like ours.
Justice Scalia’s jurisprudential legacy in the area of “church-state” relations largely reflected this world view. In numerous contexts, he interpreted the constitution’s prohibition against the establishment if religion narrowly, allowing for government to support religious schools and organizations, to promote traditional religious values,
and to make the public square accessible to religious groups. Although deeply disappointed by his majority decision in Employment Division v. Smith (1990), which limited the scope of constitutional protection for the free exercise of religion, Agudath Israel had frequent occasion to applaud Justice Scalia’s written decisions and opinions.
His keen intellect and strong moral vision will be sorely missed.
Read Joseph Goldstein’s NY Sun article about Justice Scalia’s speech at the 2008 Agudath Israel dinner here.