During an event at the University of Tennessee’s law school on Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggested to the capacity crowd that perhaps they should revolt against the U.S government if their taxes ever get too high.
During a question and answer part of the event, a student asked Scalia about the constitutionality of a federal income tax. Scalia assured the questioner that the tax was in fact permissible by the constitution, but added that if it ever became too high, “perhaps you should revolt.”
The remark, first reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel, has become a common rhetorical flourish for conservatives nationwide during the Obama presidency.
A state Tea Party chairman in Mississippi called for armed rebellion ahead of Obama’s reelection in 2012, and a Texas Judge told a local news station that he was prepared to join a “civil war” if Obama agreed to sign away U.S sovereignty to the United Nations. Michele Bachmann found herself in hot water in 2009, shortly after Obama took office, for calling upon a violent uprising against Obama, and faced accusations of using treasonous language.
Supreme Court justices have largely refrained from such rhetoric. Still, in recent years, Scalia has shifted even further to the right than when he was first appointed.
Days later, at a joint appearance with fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia offered a bit of ironic commentary on inflammatory rhetoric. “It sometimes annoys me when somebody has made outrageous statements that are hateful,” he told the audience at the National Press Club. “Sometimes the press will say, ‘well, he was just exercising his first amendment rights’…You can be using your first amendment rights and it can be abominable that you are using your first amendment rights. I’ll defend your right to use it, but I will not defend the appropriateness of the manner in which you are using it.”