Antonin Scalia, a justice of the United States Supreme Court, spoke Thursday at Wesleyan University. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, he lectured on his theory of interpreting the U.S. Constitution.
Scalia's hour-long talk was an academic, sometimes grumpy, often funny defense of the way he thinks about the law. He didn't permit broadcast recording of the talk, but this is what it sounded like: The constitution should be read for what it says, not for what you think it should say. It's called an originalist approach. According to Scalia, the constitution either speaks to an issue, or it doesn't. The framers either meant something, or they didn't. And if you don't like what it includes or omits or means, that's not a problem for the courts to resolve -- that's a problem for you and your elected officials. Over the course of his talk, Scalia explained how he thought that applied to First Amendment and those who advocate for it -- from newspapers to flag burners to an artist who covered herself, he thinks, in chocolate. He called the chocolate incident weird. As for flag burning, Scalia said he considers it speech and therefore protected by the constitution -- although he said he'd criminalize it were he king. After his talk, the associate justice took questions. Asked about Bush versus Gore, Scalia's advice was to "get over it." A week before the event, the university's president wrote on his blog that the presence of a conservative jurist had provoked what he called predictable opposition - but that he welcomed dissent as a fundamental part of a liberal arts education. Scalia faced some opposition at the event itself -- at the end of his talk, two banners protested his presence, as did a handful of people who stood -- dressed and hooded like prisoners. Before the talk, a few dozen protesters made their voices heard outside the event. For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.