Clarence Thomas Talks Constitution, Faith, and Married Life at Ultraconservative Ave Maria University

Thomas Monaghan, the billionaire behind Dominos Pizza and a prolific donor to Religious Right and Republican causes, founded Ave Maria University of Florida to be one of the most conservative Catholic institutions in the country. Not only did Monaghan seek to establish a new Catholic university, but also wanted to build an entire city based around his ultraconservative ideology. Rick Santorum lauded Ave Maria’s students as God’s soldiers training for a spiritual war, and Justice Antonin Scalia even assisted the founding of the Ave Maria School of Law.

Now, another conservative Supreme Court Justice is aiding Ave Maria’s efforts. While speaking to students of Ave Maria University and Ave Maria School of Law, Thomas told students not to shy away from using their religious views in public life, defended “constitutional originalism,” and touted the stability of his marriage (which must be a very sore subject for Thomas). The Ave Herald reports:

“I was minding my own business and President Bush appointed me,” he said. Now, 20 years later, he said he was surprised to look around the justices’ conference table recently and realize that he was the third most senior jurist on the Supreme Court. His time on the court has given him much greater perspective, he said.

“You get more of a panoramic view.”

Nonetheless, he said, “I get called an activist because I believe we should follow the constitution, not the stuff we made up about it.”

He urged the students to respect the courts, even if they disagree with their decisions.

“You want to be constructive,” he said. “You can feel strongly without acting emotionally and being bitter and angry.”

Common themes in both appearances were the importance of faith and being guided by wanting to “just do the right thing.”

“I tell my law clerks every year,” Justice Thomas said, “that pragmatism is not a principle. It’s giving yourself the excuse to go along to get along.”

In the end, he said, people need to be able answer the question asked at the end of the movie Saving Private Ryan: Have I been a good man? Have I led a good life?

Catholics, he said, should not be afraid to live their faith openly.

“Many people choose to hide their lights under a bushel basket,” he said in reference to a Gospel passage.

“Our deeds are our most effective homilies, our most effective speeches.”

He advised students to seek a balance between their careers and family life, saying that his own marriage of 24 years to his wife, Virginia, who was with him at both appearances, “has been a hoot.”

Keep sight of what is important, he told the students at AMU.

“Don’t lose your faith, don’t lose your family, don’t lose your friends. Have the confidence that with God and your faith anything is possible.”