Extent of Intent

SOJOURNERS GIVES two examples of "radically different" interpretations of the Constitution ("A Matter of Justice," by Julie Polter, November 1993). One, considered conservative, is to interpret the Constitution literally, based according to Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Robert N. Bork - on the "original intention" of the writers. The other is extending the 14th Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection of the law" from granting full rights to African Americans to all Americans.

Since the wording of the Constitution is the result of compromise, it is likely that it says what the writers agreed on and not much more. Of course the writers had a common reason for the need of various sections and amendments, but they had serious disagreements about the approach.

While the primary need for the 14th Amendment was "equal protection of the law" for African Americans, nothing in the Constitution was written for any individual or group until they accept public office or engage in public enterprise, which includes crime.

During his hearings as a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Bork made the astute observation that the Constitution does not prohibit the Congress from enacting stupid or bad laws. Sojourners articles on the injustice of our economic system are indications of how poorly Congress has promoted the common welfare.

The Constitution contains few absolute rights, and choice is not one of them. The prohibition and establishment clauses on religion and freedom of the press have been tortured far beyond any reasonable interpretation. "Equal protection of the law" should protect all of us, including minorities, women, the handicapped, everyone; the unborn child is excluded because the Supreme Court (7-2) decided that he or she is not a person.

John Brian Kearney

Gloucester City, New Jersey

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Sojourners Magazine January 1994
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