What Did Scalia Say and Why Did He Say It?


“The United States Supreme Court has held that secular humanism is a religion. Belief in evolution is a central tenet of that religion.” Antonin Scalia, in the case Edwards v. Aguillard, U.S. Supreme Court, 1987

This is one of the most hated, denied, and attacked statements on our entire blog. We used it in our book Antidisestablishmentarianism in the section “What Is Secular Humanism?” Both are available on Amazon for those interested in the context we provided. For those not interested in reading our book to find out the full context, this blog is a brief explanation of why this statement by Justice Scalia is an accurate statement.

First, here is a link to the entire case Edwards v Aguillard. It is available many places. This is just one possibility. It is large and requires a lot of bandwidth.

Second, Justice Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion in this case. If you understand how the SCOTUS works, you will understand that this quote is in the background section of his decision. This is not, in and of itself, either Justice Scalia’s ruling or an opinion. He is simply stating historical background.

Third, Justice Scalia took notes on testimony of Senator Keith. These may or may not be the exact words of Senator Keith. They might be the words of another witness or they might simply be the words of Justice Scalia. They are the notes of Justice Scalia which Justice Scalia entered into the official record. This notes section begins with the following words: “Senator Keith and his witnesses testified essentially as set forth in the following numbered paragraphs:” I have no doubt that both Senator Keith and Justice Scalia believe these words.

Fourth, here is the paragraph in full so that the reader may understand the complete context.
“(5) The censorship of creation science has at least two harmful effects. First, it deprives students of knowledge of one of the two scientific explanations for the origin of life, and leads them to believe that evolution is proven fact; thus, their education suffers, and they are wrongly taught that science has proved their religious beliefs false. Second, it violates the Establishment Clause. The United States Supreme Court has held that secular humanism is a religion. Id. at E-36 (Sen. Keith) (referring to Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488, 495, n. 11 (1961));1 App. E-418 (Sen. Keith); 2 id. at E-499 (Sen. Keith). Belief in evolution is a central tenet of that religion. 1 id. at E-282 (Sen. Keith); id. at E-312 – E-313 (Sen. Keith); id. at E-317 (Sen. Keith); id. at E-418 (Sen. Keith); 2 id. at E-499 (Sen. Keith). Thus, by censoring creation science and instructing students that evolution is fact, public school teachers are now advancing religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. 1 id. at E-2 – E-4 [p625] (Sen. Keith); id. at E-36 – E-37, E-39 (Sen. Keith); id. at E-154 – E-155 (Boudreaux paper); id. at E-281 – E-282 (Sen. Keith); id. at E-313 (Sen. Keith); id. at E-315 – E-316 (Sen. Keith); id. at E-317 (Sen. Keith); 2 id. at E-499 – E-500 (Sen. Keith).”
Emphasis added.

Fifth, Here is the Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 US 488 – Supreme Court 1961 case which was referenced by Justice Scalia.
It reads in part:
“The appellant Torcaso was appointed to the office of Notary Public by the Governor of Maryland but was refused a commission to serve because he would not declare his belief in God. He then brought this action in a Maryland Circuit Court to compel issuance of his commission, charging that the State’s requirement that he declare this belief violated “the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States . . . .”[1] The Circuit Court rejected these federal constitutional contentions, and the highest court of the State, the Court of Appeals, affirmed…”

The important part is the last words of this next paragraph:
“Appellant also claimed that the State’s test oath requirement violates the provision of Art. VI of the Federal Constitution that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Because we are reversing the judgment on other grounds…” (Emphasis added)

You may look up the case for yourself, but the important part is that SCOTUS did not rule on the basis of “no religious test” but instead found Secular Humanism (not using those exact words) to be a religion.

Here is the exact wording of the 1961 ruling;
“This Maryland religious test for public office unconstitutionally invades the appellant’s freedom of belief and religion and therefore cannot be enforced against him.”
The exact words of SCOTUS;
a refusal to “declare his belief in God” is “the appellant’s freedom of belief and religion.”
Torcaso v. Watkins,367 US 488 – Supreme Court 1961

Sixth: “”Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others.” Torcaso v. Watkins, United States Supreme Court, 1961
This is the same case quoted in point five.

Seventh: Justice Black based his comments on the 1957 case of Fellowship of Humanity v. County of Alameda. In this case an organization of humanists sought a tax exemption on the ground that they used their property “solely and exclusively for religious worship.” The court ruled that the activities of Fellowship of Humanity entitled it to an exemption. These activities included weekly Sunday meetings. The Fellowship of Humanity case used the word humanism, not secular humanism.

Eighth: Torcaso v. Watkins is just one of hundreds of cases, most of them on state and local court (magistrate) levels. However, the most remarkable feature is the amount of agreement with Torcaso v. Watkins.

Ninth: Many Secular Humanist organizations have organized as religions and been granted 501c3 (charitable organization), as a religion.
Examples of such organizations are the First Church of Atheism, http://firstchurchofatheism.com/
The American Humanist Association http://americanhumanist.org/
The Church of Reality http://www.churchofreality.org/wisdom/humanism/

There are many other secular organizations with legal religious status with the IRS. Here are a few of the more well known “statements of belief” or creeds or manifestos. These are not recommended reading, but they are easy to find if you so choose.
Humanist Manifesto I, II and III;
A Secular Humanist Declaration by CODESH (Council for Democratic Secular Humanism);
A Secular Humanist Manifesto

To repeat:

“The United States Supreme Court has held that secular humanism is a religion. Belief in evolution is a central tenet of that religion.” Antonin Scalia, in the case Edwards v. Aguillard, U.S. Supreme Court, 1987

As President John Adams said,
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

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