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Jason Holliston
 
Thursday, October 23, 2003  
Scalia Gets Mad

So, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia got a little angry today, and lashed out at the recent Court ruling that it's not illegal for consenting adults to have sex in the privacy of their homes. I'm not surprised by his reaction, but I am at how faulty his argument is. Let's see:

The ruling, Scalia said, "held to be a constitutional right what had been a criminal offense at the time of the founding and for nearly 200 years thereafter."

And don't forget this nugget:

"Most of today's experts on the Constitution think the document written in Philadelphia in 1787 was simply an early attempt at the construction of what is called a liberal political order," Scalia told a gathering of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

"All that the person interpreting or applying that document has to do is to read up on the latest academic understanding of liberal political theory and interpolate these constitutional understandings into the constitutional text."

Well, yeah, that's pretty much how the Constitution works, pappy, but without the sneer. See, as a liberal society grows in its understanding of what constitutes human rights; we modify our laws and interpretations of our Forefather's work to fit these new understandings. Let's see if I can think of some human rights that the Constitution didn't enshrine: that a person cannot own another person, that all men and women of all colors can vote, and you can't segregate a whole group of people based on the color of their skin. That's just for starters, obviously. Would he rather have our laws and interpretations based on American society in the 1790's? That's what he's implying, to me.

The U.S. Constitution is a work of art, especially for its time. I'm not denying that. But its real beauty lies in its flexibility to conform to new understandings, and not rigidly stand for values that generations long dead held dear. Our Forefathers, great as they were, were wrong about some things, just as Justice Scalia is wrong about this.

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