It’s not every day that a law professor has his book quoted by the Supreme Court, and so the University of Baltimore‘s Michael I. Meyerson was understandably intrigued when his 2012 work about the Framers’ views on religion made it into Monday’s decision on public prayer.
But the plug from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, was somewhat bittersweet. Meyerson says the decision misread the point of his book and took the quote out of context in a way that allowed the justices to draw an entirely different conclusion about how the Founding Fathers approached religion in public.
— Professor says Supreme Court drew flawed conclusion from book: University of Baltimore expert says Framers deliberately avoided sectarian language, John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun, May 10
No, the title of this post doesn’t refer to the bond-vigilantes/austerity/confidence-fairy crowd, but instead to (yet again) the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision issued last week in Town of Greece v. Galloway–and to what will be the rallying cry of the pro-Christian-prayer-at-government-meetings crowd, going forward.
Before I swear off posting on AB about that Supreme Court opinion, I want to make one more point, this one about the perniciousness of the Court’s conservative majority’s pretense that in order to understand the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights, or the Reconstruction-era amendments, or anything else about the Constitution, you presume that the framers intended to freeze things the way they were before the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Reconstruction-era amendments, were drafted and ratified.
Which raises this question: Why engage in a laborious process of gathering a large number of people to draft a Constitution and shortly afterward draft and ratify amendments, or fight a Civil War and, after you win, draft and ratify amendments reflecting the outcome of the war, if your purpose is to solidify the pre-Constitution, pre-Bill of Rights, pre-Civil War, pre-Reconstruction-era status quo?
The answer is that you don’t, and you don’t pretend that others did. Unless you’re a 1980s-era Conservative Legal Movement lawyer, judge or justice.*
But it also highlights what is becoming a hallmark of the Roberts Court’s conservative majority: misrepresentations of the very meaning of words, phrases, legal doctrines, and (now, apparently) academics’ writings.
I wrote here recently that we’re “witnessing here a concerted, unremitting restructuring of fundamental parts of American law under the guise of constitutional interpretation, employing medicine-man semantics gimmicks and other such tactics, including baldly false, disorienting declarations stating what others’ opinions are.”
The title of Meyereson’s book is Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America. As I said here yesterday, town governments are people, my friend.
I do think the Supreme Court has crossed a threshold now. This crowd observes no recognizable bounds of propriety in achieving the Conservative Movement’s policy goals via the Court’s transparent machinations of history, language, false analogy. Nothing–nothing–is sacred any longer. Except, of course, Christianity.
[Next up, later this week: Why I believe that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will announce her retirement at the end the Supreme Court term in late June, pending confirmation of her replacement. And the Un–Elena Kagan who I expect will replace her–and why it would be a very good development, for once.]
*This paragraph and the one above were edited for clarity and inclusion of an inadvertently-missing clause after posting, 5/14 at 6:28 p.m.