We should celebrate Constitution Day by praising the document as it was written, and not by adapting it to the whims of society or of court judges, Supreme Court associate justice Antonin Scalia said Monday.
“The source of our freedom is the Constitution that we’re celebrating today,” and not the Bill of Rights, he said.
In a speech at George Washington University, Scalia addressed the need to remain faithful to the framers’ ideas in order to keep the judiciary, and other governmental bodies, from overstepping their bounds. The speech was hosted by ConSource and the GWU law school as part of DC’s 5th annual Constitution Day celebration.
Tuesday is the 226th anniversary of the Constitution’s adoption on Sept. 17, 1787. The event is being marked with celebrations across the country this week, including Philadelphia, where the Tinker Tour, a 40-city tour promoting free speech and civic engagement, launches Tuesday at the National Constitution Center.
“What is the source of the wonderful freedom that this country has enjoyed?” Scalia said Monday. “Is it really the Bill of Rights?”
The first ten amendments were limited in scope, he said, and were hardly more than a PR effort. The Constitution, on the other hand, provides the language that is the core of American liberty, like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Adjusting it means endangering the equilibrium of powers that the framers set up, he said. He used NSA wiretapping as an example: if the American people want to curtail it, they need to pass a law or an amendment through Congress, not rely on the Supreme Court.
“It’s a matter of an institution staying within the bounds of its assigned jurisdiction,” he said.