Most Americans Want Supreme Court to Keep 'Original' Meaning of Constitution

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According to a new poll, a large majority of Americans say it is important to appoint Supreme Court justices who will interpret the Constitution as it was originally written.


“Most Americans value the freedoms enumerated in the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and therefore see as an immediate priority the appointment of justices to the Supreme Court who will interpret the document as written,” said Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, who commissioned the poll.

Eighty percent of Americans described it as an “immediate priority” or at least an “important” one to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will preserve the original meaning of the Constitution, according to a poll conducted by Marist and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

This emphasis on appointing originalist Supreme Court justices persisted across partisan lines. Fifty-three percent of independents, 80 percent of Republicans, and even 42 percent of Democrats described this goal as an “immediate priority.” Overall, 56 percent of Americans described it that way.

A majority of Americans wanted the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution “as it was originally written,” rather than as the “constitution means now.” Fifty-two percent preferred the founders’ meaning, while only 40 percent favored the current meaning of the founding document. Independents (50 percent to 42 percent) agreed with Republicans (78 percent to 18 percent) in backing the original intent, and even 31 percent of Democrats did too. Perhaps not surprisingly, most Democrats (59 percent) preferred the modern reading.


Almost all Americans said they prioritize protecting religious freedom. A whopping 89 percent described this as an “immediate priority” (57 percent) or at least an “important” one (32 percent). Most Democrats (55 percent), Republicans (66 percent), and independents (51 percent) called defending religious freedom an “immediate priority.”

Perhaps more surprisingly, a vast majority of Americans (65 percent to 25 percent) said religious freedom should be protected even when it conflicts with government laws. Large majorities of Republicans (74 percent), independents (63 percent), and Democrats (60 percent) agreed.

The survey included 2,729 adults, questioned between December 12 and December 19, 2016, contacted on landline or mobile numbers and interviewed in English or Spanish. Results are statistically significant within ±1.9 percentage points.

“Majorities of Americans — regardless of party — have embraced religious freedom and have rightly rejected the false notion that it is something negative,” Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus, declared. “They overwhelming [sic] support the protection of our first freedom, the free exercise of religion.”

This poll comes at a time when so-called LGBT “rights” are widely seen as conflicting with religious freedom, often dismissed as a smokescreen for “discrimination,” “bigotry,” and “hate.” In November, BuzzFeed ran an exposé on Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of HGTV’s hit show “Fixer Upper,” attempting to shame them for their pastor’s (unspeakable!) belief that gay marriage is wrong. Chip Gaines responded by declaring that “disagreement is not the same thing as hate.”


This minor kerfuffle followed Massachusetts’ decision in September to force LGBT “accommodation” rules on churches, mandating churches open men’s and women’s restrooms to members of the opposite sex and that pastors refer to transgender people by their chosen pronouns. Thankfully, the state removed these restrictions, and six churches which had decided to sue dropped their lawsuit.

Also, on the very last day of 2016, a federal judge in Texas had to stop a medical mandate through Obamacare forcing employers to cover and doctors to perform transgender surgeries in the name of “anti-discrimination.” A North Dakota Catholic diocese filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the same rules, citing Roman Catholic doctrine that humans are either male or female, and that transgender surgery involves the damaging of healthy sexual tissue, not the “affirmation” of sexual identity.

An originalist reading of the Constitution would support protections for Catholics and others who disagree with transgender ideology — “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This poll discovered that vast majorities of Americans support the original reading of the Constitution and the religious freedom which it declares.

Whether or not this means most Americans agree with the North Dakota diocese, the churches which sued Massachusetts, or Chip Gaines, these results suggest that they would disagree with the Obama administration’s blanket enforcement of LGBT “accommodation” rules. There are many issues involved, and Americans need more dialogue to figure out the best way to protect sexual minorities from discrimination (which most Christians do not support) while preserving religious freedom for disagreement.


This poll suggests two issues on which Americans broadly agree, and a starting point for discussing the more controversial areas where they differ.


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