Courts

Justice Scalia Opens Up About the Devil, the Soup Nazi, and More


Scalia, speaking in Virginia

Photograph by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

Scalia, speaking in Virginia

It’s opening day at the U.S. Supreme Court, so check out one of the most fun and informative interviews of a sitting justice I’ve ever read: Jennifer Senior’s Q&A with Antonin Scalia in the new issue of New York magazine. Some highlights:

Where Scalia gets his news: The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. He used to read the Washington Post, but it “went to far” for him. “I couldn’t handle it anymore.” Asked to elaborate, Scalia said: “It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think they lost subscriptions partly because they became so shrilly, shrilly liberal.” Scalia has no use for the New York Times, either.

How he sees American culture: “I’m rather pessimistic that my grandchildren will enjoy the great society that I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime. I really think it’s coarsened.” Specifically, he cites movies and television shows characterized by “constant use of the F-word” and gratuitous nude sex scenes.

What Scalia thinks of homosexuality and gays: “I’m not a hater of homosexuals at all. I still think it’s Catholic teaching that it’s wrong. Okay? But I don’t hate the people who engage in it.”

Why we don’t see the Devil around much anymore: The justice says he “believes in the Devil” and wonders why “there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.” Senior suggested that the Devil may have gotten “wilier,” and Scalia readily agreed. When the journalist asked whether it is “terribly frightening to believe in the Devil,” the justice became defensive. “You’re looking at me as though I’m weird,” he said. “My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream American that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil!” Obviously surprised by this outburst, Senior apologized. Scalia added: “I was offended by that. I really was.”

What are Scalia’s favorite TV shows: The Sopranos and Seinfeld. “In fact, I got some CDs of Seinfeld. Seinfeld was hilarious. Oh, boy. The Nazi soup kitchen? ‘No soup for you!’”

Which opinion of his does he consider ‘heroic’: After resisting the question with heroic modesty, Scalia gave a surprising answer. “The most heroic opinion—maybe the only heroic opinion I ever issued—was my statement refusing to recuse.” Huh? He referred to a memo he wrote in 2004 declining to bow out of a case involving then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a Scalia friend and hunting buddy. “I thought that took some guts,” the justice explained. “Most of my opinions don’t take guts. They take smarts. But not courage.”

Barrett_190
Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Law of the Jungle, which tells the story of the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador, will be published by Crown in September 2014.

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