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Onward Christian Lawyers | The Nation

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Onward Christian Lawyers

In his scathing dissent in the Supreme Court decision that overturned state sodomy laws, Justice Scalia objected to the court's imposition of "foreign moods, fads or fashions on Americans." Scalia was directly referring to the citation of a 1981 European Court of Human Rights case in the court's majority opinion, but he was also reiterating a long-standing, right-wing jeremiad against "activist judges" taking any international law into consideration. Such objections would become a minor theme of "Justice Sundays" and even prompted a rare public rebuke from Sandra Day O'Connor, who said in a 2004 speech at Georgetown that "international law is a help in our search for a more peaceful world." Indeed it's not just on matters of world peace and anal sex that U.S. judges look abroad for ideas. The Supreme Court cited a UN convention in Roper v. Simmons, which struck down the juvenile death penalty, and the Massachusetts Supreme Court mentioned Canadian law when it legalized same-sex marriage.

Now it seems that the right-wing legal establishment has decided that if you can't beat them, join them. In an article for U.S. News and World Report, Scott Michels documents how the Alliance Defense Fund, the Christian Right counter to the ACLU, is "taking the culture wars overseas." Michels' opens with the ADF's role in the case of Stephen Copsey, a British man who was fired for refusing to work on Sundays, and quotes ADF chief counsel Benjamin Bull as saying "if these cases are imported by the United States courts as controlling precedent, we basically abandon America as we know it." According to Michel, the ADF and other right-wing groups have "developed international networks of Christian lawyers, trained foreign lawyers, and sent their lawyers abroad."

The ADF was founded in 1994 by prominent right-wingers such as Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), James Dobson (Focus on the Family), James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries) and Don Wildmon (American Family Association). Its leader Alan Sears was the Executive Director of the notorious Meese Commission on Pornography and authored The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today. While most of the ADF's $17 million annual budget is spent litigating domestic culture war cases such as Boyscouts v. Dale and Cupertino, as well as organizing a national "Day of Truth" to oppose the "Day of Silence" organized by LGBT activists -- you can expect their international reach to grow along with evangelical interest in global issues like AIDS, religious conflict and sex trafficking.

Whatever one may think about the ADF and their ilk, you gotta admire their savviness. Blast liberals for their global ambitions; launch a stealth campaign to do the same. Since the right to discriminate against gays (or what they creatively term their "freedom of religion") seems to be ADF's raison d'etre, I refer readers to Michael Bronski's recent article on the shortcomings of the gay rights movement, in particular how gay liberation's global roots (the Gay Liberation Front was an homage of sorts to the Vietnamese National Liberation Front) are both inspiring and under-developed.

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