Crusaders in Wingtips

While the Supreme Court is being reshaped before our eyes, the
American
Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) and the

Alliance Defense Fund
(ADF) are looking overseas for the next
front in America’s legal battles,

Rachel Morris reports for Legal Affairs
. The past few
years have seen a small but significant rise in US court rulings
that cite non-US court decisions. As then-Chief Justice William
Rehnquist said in 1989: ‘[I]t is time that the United States courts
begin looking to the decisions of other constitutional courts to
aid in their own deliberative process.’

The ACLU spotted the coming articulation between international
courts and US legal issues and held a conference on the issue in
late 2003. Shortly thereafter, the Center for Reproductive Rights
began a below-the-radar push for what Morris calls ‘a human right
to abortion in international norms and treaties.’ The ADF — a
Christian group that pushes conservative values through litigation
— quickly followed suit, focusing on influencing the outcomes of
cases abroad that they saw as dangerously close to issues they were
facing at home. Advocating a pro-life, pro-family, anti-gay agenda,
the ADF saw foreign battles over issues that were hot-button in the
United States as central to their mission. If US courts were going
to cite international courts in their rulings, why then should the
ADF confine its litigation to the US court system?

Recently the group successfully defended the Rev. Ake Green, a
Pentecostal preacher in Sweden who was being prosecuted under a
recent provision in Sweden’s criminal code that forbids expressions
of ‘contempt’ for homosexuals. Similarly, the ADF is currently
intervening in Canada, defending an anti-gay minister. Inside the
US, the ADF had a hand in the Terri Schiavo case and was
instrumental in both halting gays from marrying in San Francisco
and keeping them from leading Boy Scouts across the nation, Morris
reports.

It’s a game the ADF says it would rather not play, preferring
instead to keep the US judicial system free of international
influence. But the group’s mission is to advocate for its positions
in the culture wars, and if that requires intervention in foreign
cases, so be it. The game is afoot, and the ADF would rather not
lose at it. Morris quotes Benjamin Bull, ADF’s chief counsel: ‘If
there’s a dangerous foreign law precedent that will influence US
courts within the next five years, we want to impact the
outcome.’
Nick Rose

Note: The March/April issue of Legal Affairs, in
which the article summarized above appears, will be the last.
Citing financial difficulties, the magazine will cease print
publication while it ‘explore[s] opportunities the site
provides.’

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Crusaders in Wingtips

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