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02/23/2017

Caroline Mala Corbin: Justice Scalia, the Establishment Clause, and Christian Privilege
Michael Ramsey

Caroline Mala Corbin (University of Miami School of Law) has posted Justice Scalia, the Establishment Clause, and Christian Privilege (First Amendment Law Review, Vol. 15, 2017) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Justice Scalia had an unusual view of the Establishment Clause. According to Justice Scalia, the principle that the government can never favor one religion over another is “demonstrably false.” He maintained that given the history and traditions of this country, the government could, consistent with the Constitution, express a preference for Christianity (or perhaps Judeo-Christianity) by, for example, “honoring God through public prayer and acknowledgment, or, in a nonproselytizing manner, venerating the Ten Commandments.” Indeed, Justice Scalia thought that the government’s failure to do so expressed hostility to religion.

This symposium Essay argues that Justice Scalia’s view of the Establishment Clause exemplifies Christian privilege. It identifies three key insights from critical race studies and its analysis of white privilege: (1) whites enjoy certain unearned privileges, including the fact that whiteness is the unstated racial norm; (2) these privileges are often invisible to those who possess them, and (3) the loss of this privileged position is often experienced as hostility. These insights are then mapped onto Justice Scalia’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence as well as his originalist theory of constitutional interpretation more generally.

Via Larry Solum at Legal Theory Blog, who has additional comments and excerpts, including this in response to the claim that originalism is indeterminate:

Of course, many contemporary originalists affirm that the original public meaning of the constitutional text underdetermines some constitutional questions.  Where the text is vague or opened textured or where ambiguities cannot be resolved by contextual disambiguation, there may be "construction zones"--where the development of constitutional doctrine is not fully determined by original meaning.  Nonetheless, a very good case can be made that the determinate provisions (including much of the hard-wired or structural constitution) and the core of settled meaning of provisions that are vague have real "bite." See William Baude & Stephen E. Sachs, Originalism's Bite.