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Causes of the Recent Turn in Constitutional Interpretation

Duke University School of Law
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Causes of the Recent Turn in Constitutional Interpretation SCHROEDER.DOC 02/07/02 11:44 AM CAUSES OF THE RECENT TURN IN CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION CHRISTOPHER H. SCHROEDER† INTRODUCTION Due Process. Equal Protection of the Laws. Commerce Among the Several States. The words and phrases of the Constitution that produce most interpretive disagreements are very old. Many, such as the Presentment Clause and the Vesting Clauses, can be found in the Constitution as it existed in 1793. Others, including the Privileges and Immunities Clause and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, were added to the Constitution immediately after the Civil War. None of these clauses has changed since the day it was rati- fied. No similar stability has attended the Supreme Court’s under- standing of what these clauses mean. Sometimes the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment has meant that states must make rea- sonable accommodations for religious practices in administering fa- cially neutral laws, while at other times it has meant that states need not do so.1 Sometimes the Enforcement Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has meant that Congress has special leeway in crafting programs designed to ameliorate the effects of past discrimination, while at other times it has meant that Congress has no more leeway Copyright © 2001 by Christopher H. Schroeder. † Charles S. Murphy Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law. This Essay is based on a paper presented at the Constitution in Exile conference hosted by the Program in Public Law at Duke University School of Law on October 5–7, 2000. My thanks to Neal Devins, Keith Whittington, and the other conference participants for valuable criticisms and comments. 1. Compare Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 408–09 (1963) (holding that a neutral, gen- erally applicable state law barring unemployment compensation to individuals who did not ac- cept suitable work when offered could not be applied to a Seventh Day Adventist who ref

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