John Paul Stevens And “Five Chiefs” Makes For Fast-Paced Read With Constitutional Lessons


I have been enjoying the fast read from former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens as he writes about the five Chief Justices that he knew.  While moving along today in the book I came across the following and had to read it twice—–Lord times have changed.  Thankfully!

….I had also written an opinion arguing that an airlines’ policy of hiring only unmarried flight attendants did not unlawfully discriminate against women because the airline had another rule making men ineligible for the position.

Stevens tackles some of the issues that fascinate me—and one in particular which makes for posts on this blog–the idea of original intent.  With able-minded writing he refutes the idea that anyone today can with certainty know exactly what the framers intended.  And even if one could he points out that should not be the final or even the most important perspective to hold.  Stevens points to the First Amendment freedom of religion guarantee as an example.  He notes that the leaders of the country in 1789 were all Christian, but their intent was to make sure that no particular brand of Christianity got government preference.

The First Amendment’s religion clause “wasn’t intended to protect the Muslims or the Jewish faith or the atheists,” He writes, “But once we started to analyze the clause, in case after case, we developed the rules that make it perfectly clear that the principle that was adopted was much broader than the specific purpose of the draftsmen.  It’s a principle that goes beyond the original intent.”

The larger goal of the Founders is most obvious.  Simply put there must be no government preference for any religion, Christian or not, and no penalty for any religion or for nonbelievers either.

The book is aligned with my interests and snaps along at a nice pace.   It you want a book about the court, its history, and some law cases that are most relevant to the justices highlighted than this should be on your reading pile.

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