Scalia talks about the devil, "Duck Dynasty" and knowing when to retire

March 8, 2012 file photo shows Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaking at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

In a wide-ranging interview with New York Magazine, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia shared his insight into the influence of the devil in society, how he ended up watching an episode of the popular A&E show "Duck Dynasty," and how he'll know when to retire from his life term on the high court.

After 27 years on the court, Scalia is its longest-serving member and a strict constitutional originalist. He's known for the rhetorical flourishes he adds to his court opinions; in his scathing dissent in United States v. Windsor, he wrote that the majority opinion striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act amounted to "legalistic argle-bargle."

Scalia told New York Magazine's Jennifer Senior, "I'm not a hater of homosexuals at all." However, he added, "I still think it's Catholic teaching that it's wrong. Okay? But I don't hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I've said is that I don't think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other."

If public opinion about homosexuality and its place in society is going to change, he continued, "it should change democratically, and not at the ukase of a Supreme Court."

The justice said he wasn't concerned about how his position would impact his legacy.

"Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here's Scalia, standing athwart it," he said. "At least standing athwart it as a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I'm dead and gone, I'll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy."

Scalia told Senior that he believes in heaven and hell and like "every Catholic," believes that the devil is "a real person." The devil isn't as conspicuous in society as he once was, Scalia said, because "he got wilier" and now advances his agenda by "getting people not to believe in him or in God."

While isn't concerned about his legacy, Scalia says he has wondered whether he could now write a court opinion as well as he did in the 1980s.

"You always wonder whether you're losing your grip and whether your current opinions are not as good as your old ones," said the 77-year-old, who was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He added he'll know when it's time to retire "when I'm not hitting on all eight cylinders." Additionally, he said he'll know it's time to retire when he doesn't enjoy his job as much as he does.

"I think that's the beginning of the end," he said. "I was worried lately about the fact that the job seems easier. That I really don't have to put in the excessively long hours that I used to. I still work hard. But it does seem easier than it used to... But after due reflection, I've decided the reason it's getting easier is because so many of the cases that come before us present the issue of whether we should extend one of the opinions from the previous 27 years that I've been here, which I dissented from in the first place!"

Scalia bemoaned the "coarseness" of modern society, particularly when it comes to manners.

"You can't go to a movie--or watch a television show for that matter--without hearing the constant use of the F-word--including, you know, ladies using it," he said. "People that I know don't talk like that! But if you portray it a lot, the society's going to become that way. It's very sad."

Scalia said he doesn't follow pop culture closely, though he did watch an episode of "Duck Dynasty," which follows a family that runs a duck call business, since he is a hunter and has used duck calls. The one television show he did say he enjoys is "Seinfeld."

"In fact, I got some CDs of 'Seinfeld,'" he said. "Seinfeld was hilarious. Oh, boy. The Nazi soup kitchen? No soup for you!"