'Fixed Star' or Twin Star? the Ambiguity of Barnette
37 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2018
Date Written: 2018
Written for a conference on “Barnette at 75," this essay argues that West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette addressed the fundamental challenge for modern societies– how to deal with pluralism. In response to that challenge, the case attempted to describe “the fixed star in our constellation.” But what was that “fixed star”? Two main interpretations have developed; these can be called “the neutrality interpretation” and “the integrity interpretation.” The essay argues that despite its widespread appeal, the neutrality interpretation is untenable; conversely, the integrity interpretation captures a fundamental commitment of the American constitutional project. And, as it happens, that commitment is particularly timely, albeit embattled, in our own circumstances, as the debate surrounding the Masterpiece Cakeshop controversy reflects.
Keywords: West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, pluralism, neutrality interpretation, integrity interpretation
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation