unknown god


Certain parts of the U.S. Constitution are treated by some justices as Paul treated the altar dedicated to an unknown god.


"In the event that the meaning of a sentence in the Constitution cannot be decided upon, that sentence should not then be given a new meaning that satisfies the preferences, however noble, of a judge or scholar. For practical purposes such provisions are meaningless. Constitutional provisions are not unknown gods waiting to be specified by lawyers with a mission.


So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you . . . " [Acts 17:22-17:31]


Paul shrewdly proceeds to let the Athenians know who the god is. The unknown meaning of a part of the Constitution should not be used as a basis for justices to engage in freewheeling ethical reasoning.... The ninth amendment ("The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people"), for example, does not mean that the judges can discover new rights. It means the legislatures can."


——from Paul Bullen, "Justifications for Judicial Review and Recommendations for its Proper Practice."



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