The Original Meaning of "Religion" in the First Amendment: A Test Case of Originalism's Utilization of Corpus Linguistics

By Strang, Lee J. | Brigham Young University Law Review, November 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

The Original Meaning of "Religion" in the First Amendment: A Test Case of Originalism's Utilization of Corpus Linguistics


Strang, Lee J., Brigham Young University Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

This Essay accomplishes three modest goals. First, it provides a practical example of the application of corpus linguistics to originalism. This affords a first-cut illustration of the extent to which corpus linguistics can make originalism's methodology more rigorous. second, this Essay utilizes the tools of corpus linguistics to provide additional evidence of the original meaning of "religion" in the First Amendment.1 Third, based on this experience, it describes some of the challenges originalist scholars will likely face employing corpus linguistics.

II. CORPUS LINGUISTICS AND ORIGINALISM

Corpus linguistics is the study of word-use regularities and patterns, primarily in written texts.2 Today, scholars typically utilize computers to identify and analyze word usage in electronic and electronically-searchable databases called corpora.3 Corpus linguists apply a variety of tools and analyses to corpora. For instance, "collocation" is a tool that permits identification of the words most commonly associated with (and within so many words of) a searchedfor word.4 Corpus linguistics is just beginning to have an impact on legal scholarship.5 I describe my use of corpus linguistics for purposes of this Essay below, in Part IV.

Originalism is the theory of constitutional interpretation that identifies the Constitution's text's public meaning when it was ratified as its authoritative meaning.6 The process of uncovering the original public meaning contains a number of distinct components.7 One analytically distinct and important step is to identify the conventional meaning of the Constitution's words and phrases at the time of ratification.8 In previous scholarship, I argued that originalists should utilize corpus linguistics to facilitate originalism's capacity to accurately uncover this original conventional meaning.9 I labeled originalist use of corpus linguistics, "computer-assisted research technology," or "CART."10

However, my arguments there were theoretical; this Essay provides a modest, practical test of corpus linguistics' capacity to increase originalism's methodological accuracy. Below, in Part IV, I provide a test case that shows how corpus linguistics augments my previous originalist scholarship describing the original meaning of "religion" in the First Amendment.11 This provides (preliminary) evidence of the practical capacity of corpus linguistics to enhance originalism, even for those texts over which there is substantial current interpretative disagreement.

At the same time, as I explain in Part V, this test case exemplifies some of the challenges originalist scholars will likely face employing corpus linguistics. Originalist scholars face both technical and professional obstacles. Technically, there does not yet exist the type of publicly available and robust corpora of sources from the framing and ratification period that will maximize originalism's benefits from corpus linguistics. Professionally, most originalist scholars' backgrounds do not include training in the theory, techniques, and terminology of corpus linguistics, and this creates challenges to originalists fully capitalizing on corpus linguistics' promise.

III. "RELIGION" IN THE FIRST AMENDMENT

A.Introduction

In this Part, I briefly review the history of the interpretation of "religion" in the First Amendment. Section B summarizes the history of the Supreme Court's treatment of the term and the recent scholarly debate over its meaning. Section C describes my prior originalist scholarship, which reviewed the historical evidence and concluded that the original meaning of religion was a belief system that contained these three components: (1) belief in a deity; (2) with duties in this life; and (3) a future state of rewards and punishments.

B.Jurisprudence and Scholarship on the Meaning of "religion" in the First Amendment

Since the mid-twentieth century, there has been significant debate over the meaning of religion in the First Amendment both on the Supreme Court and among scholars. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Original Meaning of "Religion" in the First Amendment: A Test Case of Originalism's Utilization of Corpus Linguistics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.