The American Right Goes Global

| Tue Feb. 21, 2006 4:08 PM EST

Rachel Morris of Legal Affairs has an intriguing report on conservative Christian legal groups that are going abroad to fight various legal cases abroad, before those cases end up as fodder for Supreme Court decisions here at home. Justice Anthony Kennedy, after all, has suggested that the interpretation of Constitutional law should at least listen to what foreign courts are saying—see Jeffrey Toobin's profile of Kennedy in the New Yorker for more on this—and Stephen Breyer has more-or-less agreed.

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At any rate, Morris tells the story of Reverend Ake Green in Sweden who gave a speech calling gay people a "deep cancerous tumor in the entire society." He was prosecuted under Sweden's hate laws, and the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court. And the Alliance Defense Fund, an American Christian legal organization that specializes in opposing gay marriage, flew in to file an amicus brief in defense of the reverend—whose conviction was eventually overturned. And the ADF plans to continue this trend:

In recent years, ADF has financed locally based lawyers to intervene in a number of foreign cases. It agreed to fund a challenge to the U.K.'s law allowing human cloning for research purposes, though the case never reached a courtroom. With ADF funding, lawyers from a new allied organization, the European Defense Fund, are advising German Christian parents who home school their children but fear they will be prosecuted for failing to send them to school, as Germany's laws require they do.

The ADF is also closely watching the emergence of hate speech and antidiscrimination laws in Canada. "If the Canadians will accept certain limitations on freedom, there's a certain currency of thought in the U.S. that it must be O.K. for us, too, because Canada's our first cousin," Bull noted. The organization hired a Canadian lawyer for Stephen Boissoin, a minister who railed in the newspaper of Red Deer, Alberta, against those who support the "homosexual machine that has been mercilessly gaining ground in our society since the 1960s." The Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission initially dismissed a complaint against the minister brought by a university professor, but it has since agreed to hear the case.

You could almost call it, "Fighting them over there so they don't have to fight them over here." This also brings to mind an old Foreign Policy article about the NRA doing something similar—fighting gun-control laws around the world (and in the UN). On the left, you see somewhat less of this, it seems. The most obvious candidate, labor, shot itself in the foot during the Cold War after the AFL-CIO undercut its strength abroad by backing various U.S.-allied dictatorships and opposing leftist trade unions, but that's been changing in recent years (and the breakaway unions, led by the SEIU, have hinted that international organizing will be a goal—see, for instance, Matt Bai's interview with Andy Stern in the New York Times). But the right has been rapidly shifting its battles to the international stage, and it would be dangerous not to pay attention to this trend.