Rep. Michele Bachmann's series of "Conservative Constitutional Seminars," which began yesterday with a lecture by Justice Antonin Scalia, represents an important opportunity to improve understanding of our nation's founding document, but also has "the potential to endanger that understanding - and future responsible constitutional interpretation," ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson writes in an op-ed in Politico.
The op-ed echoes a letter Fredrickson delivered to Bachmann Friday, encouraging the Tea Party Caucus founder to broaden the scope of constitutional seminars for Members of Congress by inviting ACS experts. Fredrickson said Bachmann's decision to name the series "Conservative Constitution Seminars," and her decision to invite as the first lecturer Justice Antonin Scalia, a leading proponent of originalism, suggest that "she is not looking for a truly comprehensive understanding of the Constitution."
"Instead, she seems to be putting forth an interpretive approach that could be consistent with the political views of Tea Party Caucus members and a generally narrow, skewed view of the Constitution," Fredrickson writes. "... In practice, originalism has turned out to be little more than a result-oriented approach to judging - one that allows those ‘applying' it to reach right wing results antithetical to the values our society holds."
When we look back on this period, we may be able to thank the Tea Party movement for its effort - albeit politically motivated - to spearhead this new focus on the Constitution. But the Constitution is too profound a document to limit this opportunity with partisan presentation.