Poll: Americans want a SCOTUS nominee who will interpret the Constitution as ‘originally written’

Poll: Americans want a SCOTUS nominee who will interpret the Constitution as ‘originally written’
The exterior view of the U.S. Supreme Court is seen June 25, 2007 in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A majority of Americans support the nomination of a Supreme Court justice who will interpret the Constitution as it was “originally written” to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, according to a Marist poll released Monday.

The poll, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization, found that 56 percent of Americans consider the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will apply the Constitution as it was originally written an “immediate priority.”

Majorities of independents and Republicans — 53 percent and 80 percent, respectively — called the appointment of such a justice an “immediate priority,” compared to 42 percent of Democrats.

Additionally, 52 percent said the high court as a whole should interpret the Constitution as it was “originally written” compared to 40 percent who responded that decisions should be based on what they believe the Constitution “means now.”

In recent days, the Supreme Court has heard a number of cases involving religious liberty, such as Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, in which an order of Catholic nuns objected to the Affordable Care Act’s Health and Human Services mandate that required them to cover contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in their employee health insurance plans. It is possible that the court will consider similar cases in 2017.

The poll also found that 89 percent feel that protecting religious freedom is a priority. Fifty-seven percent of respondents described safeguarding religious liberty as an “immediate priority,” in addition to 32 percent who called it an “important” one. Sixty-five percent believe religious liberty should be protected even when it “conflicts with government laws.”

Protecting religious liberty earned bipartisan support — 51 percent of independents, 55 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans called the matter an “immediate priority.”

Carl Anderson, the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in a statement, “Majorities of Americans  regardless of party  have embraced religious freedom and have rightly rejected the false notion that it is something negative”:

They overwhelming support the protection of our first freedom, the free exercise of religion. And not surprisingly, 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.

The poll, conducted from Dec. 12-19, surveyed 2,729 adults.

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