At the Supreme Court today, Justice Scalia was either playing straight man to give the ACLU lawyer the laugh line, or else he is just showing why people call him the most conservative justice on a very conservative court.
The case involves a large cross that was erected on public land as a war memorial. Some non-Christians objected to the placement of the cross on public land, saying that a cross is a religious symbol and cannot represent their war dead. But Scalia disagrees:
Scalia: The cross doesn’t honor non-Christians who fought in the war? Is that — is that —
Eliasberg: I believe that’s actually correct.
Scalia: Where does it say that?
Eliasberg: It doesn’t say that, but a cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins, and I believe that’s why the Jewish war veterans —
Scalia: It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It’s the — the cross is the — is the most common symbol of — of — of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn’t seem to me — what would you have them erect? A cross — some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?
Eliasberg: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.
At this point, the court broke out in laughter.
And of course, Stephen Colbert gives his unique perspective on this legal quandary: