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U.S. Supreme Court

Scalia Continues Media Blitz, Tells Students ‘I am not a Moralist-in-Chief’

Posted Apr 10, 2008 6:19 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Once media-shy Justice Antonin Scalia continued his media blitz in a televised question-and-answer session yesterday with students from a Northern Virginia high school.

Scalia told students that he disagrees with the view that the Constitution is a living document. Instead he tries to determine what the document meant when it was adopted, the Washington Post reports. He referred to his First Amendment stance on flag burning as an example.

"Now in my social views, which I don't apply from the bench, I'm a fairly conservative fella, to tell you the truth," Scalia said. "And I don't like people who burn the American flag, and if I were king, I would put them in jail. But I'm not king, and I'm bound by the First Amendment, and my understanding of it is that it gives you the right to criticize."

Scalia's appearance was televised by C-SPAN.

He said it’s not his job to impose his own moral views on others, according to a USA Today account of his appearance. "I am not a moralist-in-chief … [nor an] ayatollah who is supposed to tell America what its morality should be," Scalia said.

Scalia has become more media friendly as he seeks to promote a new book he co-wrote with Bryan Garner, called Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. He will appear on 60 Minutes later this month. He didn’t mention the book in the student appearance, however.

Despite his now-frequent media appearances, Scalia told students he still opposes broadcast of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments because short clips would likely be presented without the proper context. "It would be 'man bites dog,' " he said. “Why should I participate in the miseducation of the American people? I just don't think it's worth it."

Updated at 4:56 p.m. to correct a reference to Scalia.

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