Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

It's a Matter of Interpretation.

A highly commended book about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia just arrived. It’s called, Scalia Dissents (2004), edited by Kevin A. Ring. The book focuses, in part, on one of the touchstones of Justice Scalia's judicial career: his views on Constitutional interpretation. Ring writes:

“Scalia is a self-proclaimed ‘textualist.’ He believes laws—and especially that supreme law known as the Constitution of the United States—say what they mean and mean what they say. In short, when interpreting the Constitution, Scalia thinks judges should focus on the text….

“If the proper meaning of the text is clear, judges should then determine whether it provides support for the claimed individual right or governmental authority. If so, the claim is valid; if not, it should be rejected. The analysis is complete.” (p. 1.)

Having a foot in both law and theology, one of the areas I have observed for integration is the process by which texts are interpreted. In biblical interpretation, this field is called hermeneutics. In law, it’s basically taught as a subset of Constitutional jurisprudence. Nevertheless, the various processes by which texts are interpreted in these disciplines are fertile grounds for comparing and contrasting. Stay tuned for future posts on this topic.