WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's (search) recent speeches have ventured into some surprising territory, with the staunchly conservative father of nine joking about sexual orgies.
Scalia is known for a biting humor and is entertaining on the talk circuit and on the bench during the court's argument sessions.
He raised some eyebrows with a speech this week at Harvard University (search), however, with a comment about the number of people needed for group sex and the jest that "sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."
He made a similar remark in a speech Sept. 20 in Washington, to chuckles from the crowd at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center (search), while making the point that judges can have personal moral judgments. It is not judges' role to impose them on citizens, he said.
"Let me make it clear that the problem I am addressing is not the social evil of the judicial dispositions I have described. I accept, for the sake of argument, for example, that sexual orgies eliminate social tension and ought to be encouraged," Scalia said with a smile.
Scalia made his point about morality in a considerably more serious fashion Friday.
From abortion to the death penalty, the Supreme Court is being asked to determine moral issues that fall outside the scope of strict constitutional interpretation, he said in a lecture at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock.
"It is blindingly clear judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to determine what is moral," Scalia said.
The 68-year-old was named to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Reagan, and President Bush has said that Scalia is one of the justices he admires most.
A Harvard Law School graduate, he was invited to Cambridge, Mass., and spoke Tuesday to a packed auditorium.
According to The Harvard Crimson newspaper, Scalia ridiculed a European court decision that struck down British legislation barring group gay sex on the ground that the law intruded upon private life. He asked rhetorically and very much tongue-in-cheek how many people it takes for such sex.
"Presumably it is some number between five and the number of people required to fill the Coliseum," Scalia said, according to the newspaper.
On a more serious note, Scalia was asked if he had any gay friends. Scalia said he probably does, but he's never "pressed the point."