Amendments provide for a Constitution that isn’t static
In his March 31 Perspectives piece (“Withholding Judgment: In Reading the Constitution, Justices Should Consider Their Own Morals”) relating to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz asserts that applying the “law as it is” instead of how it “ought to be” locks in an outdated worldview. But neither textualism nor stare decisis mandate a static Constitution; throughout history, amendments have increased individual rights.
The 19th and 26th amendments guarantee voting rights for women and 18year-olds. The Civil War amendments guarantee due process and equal protection as the basis for civil rights, and First Amendment freedom of expression protects flag burning. Indeed, the Bill of Rights, adopted over objections that a properly applied Constitution would not invade individual rights, confirms amendments as the people’s agreed-upon method to enshrine new rights.
Now, contrast reproductive rights, announced by justices using their own moral compasses to search the shadows of the Constitution as amended. Regardless of whether Roe v. Wade reached the correct result, the ongoing pro-life vs. prochoice dispute demonstrates the dangers in creating rights by Supreme Court majority vote instead of the admittedly more difficult task of persuading a multitude of fellow citizens to amend the Constitution. At its core, Mr. Ledewitz’s approach is oligarchic — judges impose their personal beliefs as new law, but people often reject such elitism believing their own morals deserve equal respect.
As a final point, referencing German history seems unnecessary — surely the Nazis perverted many views when seeking support in the failing Weimar Republic, a cauldron of societal disruption against which our current problems pale in comparison. But using “Nazi” or “fascist” allusions to criticize conservatives, or using “socialist” or “Alinskyite” to disparage progressives, is dangerous. Such epithets inflame emotions and inhibit rather than advance understanding. D.W. THOMAS Bradford Woods