Throughout our history, the United States has been a unique nation. We are the only modern nation founded not on a common heritage, ethnicity, outside intervention or mandated religion, but rather a shared set of ideals. These powerful beliefs were outlined in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the U.S. Constitution.
From the minutemen at Lexington and Concord to the Marines currently in Afghanistan and Iraq, our armed forces have fought, bled and all too often died to protect these foundational documents and the ideals they contain. The unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Free exercise of religion. Freedom of speech. And the right to shape a government and laws that are of the people, by the people and for the people.
However, there are some who seek to undermine America’s ideals and the sovereignty with which we preserve them. Increasingly, leading jurists, law professors and other legal experts are turning to foreign courts and international bodies to subvert the Constitution. And helping to lead this charge against American sovereignty and its unique form of liberty is the American Civil Liberties Union.
In 2003, the ACLU sponsored a major conference titled “Human Rights at Home: International Law in U.S. Courts” at the Carter Center in Atlanta. A declared purpose of the conference was to “[use] international law and human rights norms to advance justice in U.S. courts.” Far from featuring a collection of obscure leftists, invited panelists included Federal Judge Myron Thompson (of Justice Roy Moore fame) and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer among many other leading jurists from around the country.
The organizers did not view the conference as simply an academic exercise. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero stated, “Our goal is no less than to forge a new era of social justice where the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are recognized and enforced in the United States.”
And even more remarkably, the ACLU and their its have convinced many state and federal level justices to weave these international laws into domestic court decisions.
In Lawrence v. Texas, the ACLU filed a brief with the Supreme Court to promote the overturning of a state sodomy prohibition. In a 6-3 ruling, the court arbitrarily struck down the law along with hundreds of years of American and common law precedent on the issue. But more upsetting was the reasoning behind it. Justice Anthony Kennedy revealed that the decision was based in part on an Irish case and a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. In another case, our Supreme Court justices referenced Jamaica and Zimbabwe.
No offense intended to those august foreign bodies, but none have jurisdiction in our country or courts. None is representative of votes by the American people or our political leaders. Their decisions have no relation whatsoever to the Constitution of the United States, and in fact, many international legal concepts now in favor were rejected by the authors of America’s Constitution.
With this rudderless jurisprudence in Lawrence, Kennedy and colleagues could have just as easily cited nations that severely punish sodomy and ruled the opposite way. Basing domestic decisions on foreign laws is completely arbitrary, allowing courts to search the horizon for faraway lands with rulings that conform to their whim. The ACLU sees this as one more way to further dismantle what the framers of the Constitution envisioned.
This past March, Kennedy and the Supreme Court again cited international law in Roper v. Simmons, involving capital punishment for juvenile murderers. An ACLU press release trumpeted the development, stating, “[I]t is worth noting that six members of the United States Supreme Court … expressly upheld the relevance of international law and practice in determining which punishments are cruel and unusual under our own Constitution.”
Opinions differ strongly, even within conservative faith communities, on the merits of the death penalty, but this case shows the growing danger of international bodies impacting our domestic law. Justice Kennedy stated, “It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion.”
In his scathing dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “[This] court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation’s moral standards – and in the course of discharging that awesome responsibility purports to take guidance from the views of foreign courts and legislatures.”
Scalia is all too accurate in his assessment. By selectively citing international law, our courts can become an unelected oligarchy. It is the Constitution of the United States these justices swore an oath to uphold. And the ACLU, frustrated by their inability to advance their radical agenda fast enough, far enough, via the Constitution or the ballot box, is working hard to turn this anti-American and foreign vision into an unpleasant reality.