In today's oral argument regarding the Texas 10 commandment case Justice Scalia is quoted as follows:
Scalia took the most assertive stance, saying the monument should be seen as “a symbol of the fact that government derives its authority from God” and such a symbol on state grounds was quite “appropriate,” he said.
Scalia later told Chemerinsky that the American people understood that a display of the Ten Commandments stands for the proposition that “our laws are derived from God.”
Such statements simply both sadden and frighten me. Even under any sort of original intent argument I do not believe it can be said that the government of the United States derives its authority from God. The government derives its power from the people not God. The US goverment does not rule by divine right. If all Americans woke up tomorrow Buddhists, Hindu, agnostic or athiest, it would not affect the U.S. governments power one whit.
The most that can be said is that under the political theory that is the underpinning of our constitution is that the people are endowed by their creator or nature's God with natural rights. Scalia would apparently say that because Government power is derived from the people and the people get their power from God the government gets its power from God.
But Scalia is leaving something out. One of the absolute rights under natural law is the right of conscience. As Tucker St. George wrote:
As each individual gets to decide what obligation they owe their creator (if any) and how they must discharge that obligation, government can get no power from God and cannot derive its laws from God. The individual alone can decide God has all power or no power over his or her mortal life. The power of Government does not flow through from God.
Of course another problem with Scalia statement is he is stating that the U.S. govements power not only derives from God but the God of the Old Testament, a particular God and not particularly the God that was talked about when the term creator or Nature's God was bandied about.