Culture Warriors Go To Court: The Supreme Court and the Battle for the "Soul" of America

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Spivey, Michael
McIntosh, Wayne
ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: CULTURE WARRIORS GO TO COURT: THE SUPREME COURT AND THE BATTLE FOR THE "SOUL" OF AMERICA Michael O. Spivey, Doctor of Philosophy, 2015 Dissertation Directed by: Professor Wayne McIntosh Department of Government and Politics The notion of a "culture war" has become a fixture in the academic writing about current American politics, in the popular press and in the cultural zeitgeist. Theorists have suggested that there is a cultural fault line dividing cultural progressives and religious traditionalists. This fault line, it is argued, stems from a basic epistemological disagreement as to whether there is transcendent "truth." According to James Davidson Hunter, these different worldviews lead to policy polarization and cultural warfare. Hunter goes on to suggest that courts (and especially the Supreme Court) are focal points for this conflict. This work analyzes the nature and scope of battles over culture war issues in the United Supreme Court. It relies on a popular description of key culture war issues: God, guns and gays. The Supreme Court's treatment of each of these issues is analyzed in turn. In addition, the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence is also examined. With respect to each issue, key Supreme Court cases are identified. The briefs filed by the parties are then summarized and coded, identifying key "modalities" of arguments and specific arguments themselves. All amicus briefs are similarly analyzed and coded. The key Supreme Court decisions are then analyzed in light of arguments raised by parties and amici. Based upon this analysis, it appears that there is not one culture war but rather an interrelated set of cultural battles. Relatedly, there has been an evolution of cultural warfare over time. Some issues have become largely settled (at least within the Court's jurisprudence; others are on their way to being settled and still others present continuing opportunities for cultural clashes. The work concludes by suggesting that the sexual revolution lies at the heart of cultural warfare. Moreover, cultural battles are over the "meaning" of America, that is, what social values will be protected under law.