Citizens of the United States may be concerned about the way the Bill of Rights is being interpreted and implemented by the judges and court system of the country.
And with good reason, said Christopher Wolfe, a guest lecturer at BYU Wednesday night and an associate political science professor at Marquette University in Wisconsin.Wolfe said the framers of the Bill of Rights might be just as concerned.
Many people see the Bill of Rights as a document that was created by one "law-giver," he said. "But it was formed over time by many different people with different ideas."
All these founders used different "rules of interpretation," Wolfe said. When they talked about interpretation, they meant reading the document, not looking at obscure historical cases as many judges do today.
"And there was no guarantee that the Constitution would give a clear answer for everything," he said.
The founders did not always agree on the method of reviewing the Bill of Rights.
Some believed that judicial review, the way it is done today, was the answer, Wolfe said. Judicial review leaves all interpretation of the Bill of Rights to the court system.
Others, including a Pennsylvanian judge named John Gibson, believed that the legislature should be the body to review questions on the constitutionality of the Bill of Rights.
Wolfe said this is one of numerous little-known facts that help to understand how the Bill of Rights could have been interpreted.
Gibson believed that, because the United States was a republic, the people had the ultimate authority and the legislature was elected by the people. Therefore, they should interpret the Bill of Rights.
According to Wolfe, Gibson took a devil's advocate point of view.
"If the courts have a right to say that what the legislature does is unconstitutional, why shouldn't the legislature be able to say the same thing to the courts?" Wolfe said.
It also raises another question, he said. "Why should a group of unelected people (judges) have the only authority?"
Thomas Jefferson argued that a mixed form of review from all branches of government - the executive, judicial and legislative - was the best.
Wolfe said he would agree that the judicial review form that is dominant today is the best, but it is necessary to look at the time the Bill of Rights were written to understand the way to interpret them.