Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Saturday the idea of religious neutrality is not grounded in the country's constitutional traditions and that God has been good to the U.S. because Americans honor him, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking at a Catholic school in Metairie, Louisiana — a New Orleans suburb — Scalia told those gathered at Archbishop Rummel High School that while the First Amendment forbids the government from playing favorites among religions, there is "no place" in U.S. constitutional traditions for the notion that the government must be neutral about religion versus non-religion, the Times-Picayune reported.
"Where did that come from?" he asked, the AP said.
Scalia added that it wasn't until the 1960s that governmental religious neutrality became the law, when activist judges invoked their own concepts rather than simply taking cues from the American people, the Times-Picayune added.
"Don't cram [prohibition of governmental endorsement of religion] down the throats of an American people that has always honored God," Scalia said, according to the paper.
More from the AP:
He also said there is "nothing wrong" with the idea of presidents and others invoking God in speeches. He said God has been good to America because Americans have honored him.
Scalia said during the Sept. 11 attacks he was in Rome at a conference. The next morning, after a speech by President George W. Bush in which he invoked God and asked for his blessing, Scalia said many of the other judges approached him and said they wished their presidents or prime ministers would do the same.
"God has been very good to us," Scalia said, according to the AP. "That we won the revolution was extraordinary. The Battle of Midway was extraordinary. I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor. Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name we do him honor. In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways."
"There is nothing wrong with that and do not let anybody tell you that there is anything wrong with that," he added, the AP said.
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Scalia's comments Saturday come as the court prepares to hear arguments later this year in a case that challenges part of President Barack Obama's health care law and whether it adequately shields faith-based hospitals, colleges and charities from having to offer contraceptive coverage to their employees.
Scalia is often a lightning rod for controversy on the court.
In December he came under fire for comments he made during an affirmative action case, questioning whether some black students would benefit from going to a "slower-track school" instead of Texas' flagship campus in Austin.