Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently spoke at the Southern Methodist University (SMU) law school. During his speech, he said that the federal Constitution is “not a living document: It’s dead, dead, dead.”
That statement stirred some controversy. I’ve received several email from readers who cite Scalia’s comments as proof that “even the Supreme Court now admits that the Constitution is dead and of no force or effect!“
These readers don’t understand that Scalia is exactly right. It’s unfortunate that the debate over the reading of the Constitution has fallen into a “living Constitution” vs. “dead Constitution” dichotomy. It’s hard to fight for a “dead Constitution”. But that’s the fight we should wage.
Those who argue that the Constitution is a “living” document, argue that the meaning of the Constitution changes or evolves with time and context. The people who favor the “living Constitution” concept are those who want rule by man (themselves) rather than rule by law (the Constitution). Under the pretext that the Constitution is a “living” document, the Constitution can mean anything anyone in a position of power says it means at any time. It can mean one thing today, another thing tomorrow and a third thing next week.