Publication Date



Helms School of Government


Government: Pre-Law; History


legal history, jurisprudence, Supreme Court, law


Jurisprudence | Legal | Supreme Court of the United States | United States History


The proper method of constitutional interpretation has been debated throughout the history of the Supreme Court. This debate has been defined by the tension between the originalist and living constitution jurisprudences. Each has been dominant at one point in United States history. A fair construction jurisprudence was almost universally utilized by the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning until Plessy v. Ferguson. Then, due to an alliance between evangelicals and progressive scholars, a broader, more lenient living constitution jurisprudence developed which allowed justices to interpret the Constitution in light of changing social norms. Finally, following perceived excesses of the living constitution jurisprudence culminating in Roe v. Wade, evangelicals once again adopted a new jurisprudential philosophy to adhere to originalism which soon after grew in public acceptance. It is likely that the future of American jurisprudence lies in the hands of evangelicals who guide the dominant jurisprudence used by Supreme Court Justices.