Scalia Raps 'Living Constitution'

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia addresses the audience at the Annual Federalist Association, Charles Cuprill Chapter, Conference in Ponce, Puerto Rico Monday Feb. 13, 2006. (AP Photo/Herminio Rodriguez) AP

People who believe the Constitution would break if it didn't change with society are "idiots," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says.

In a speech Monday sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society, Scalia defended his long-held belief in sticking to the plain text of the Constitution "as it was originally written and intended."

"Scalia does have a philosophy; it's called originalism," he said. "That's what prevents him from doing the things he would like to do," he told more than 100 politicians and lawyers from this U.S. island territory.

According to his judicial philosophy, he said, there can be no room for personal, political or religious beliefs.

Scalia criticized those who believe in what he called the "living Constitution."

"That's the argument of flexibility and it goes something like this: The Constitution is over 200 years old and societies change. It has to change with society, like a living organism, or it will become brittle and break."

"But you would have to be an idiot to believe that," Scalia said. "The Constitution is not a living organism; it is a legal document. It says something and doesn't say other things."

Proponents of the living constitution want matters to be decided "not by the people, but by the justices of the Supreme Court."

"They are not looking for legal flexibility, they are looking for rigidity, whether it's the right to abortion or the right to homosexual activity, they want that right to be embedded from coast to coast and to be unchangeable," he said.

Scalia was invited to Puerto Rico by the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. The organization was founded in 1982 as a debating society by students who believed professors at the top law schools were too liberal. Conservatives and libertarians mainly make up the 35,000 members.

  • Melissa McNamara

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