Does Barack Obama really want to make Americans subject to foreign law and courts? That is the question senators should ask when they vote on his nomination of Harold Hongju Koh, former dean of the Yale Law School, to be the top lawyer at the State Department.
Koh is encumbered by a long paper trail that proves he is eager to use foreign and international law to interpret American law. He calls himself a transnationalist, which means wanting U.S. courts to "domesticate" foreign and international law -- i.e., integrate it into U.S. domestic law binding on U.S. citizens.
Koh wants to put the United States under a global legal system that would diminish our "distinctive rights culture," such as our broad speech and religion rights, due process and trial by jury. Koh complains that our First Amendment gives "protections for speech and religion ... far greater emphasis and judicial protection in America than in Europe or Asia."
Yes, our Constitution does give individuals more rights and freedom than any other country, and we Americans like those rights and freedoms. But Koh thinks we should bow to foreign rules and court decisions, and to United Nations treaties whether or not we have ratified them.
The State Department's chief lawyer is not just any lawyer. He becomes the voice of the United States on international legal issues, such as the negotiation and U.S. interpretation of treaties and U.N. pronouncements.
Importing treaties and foreign law into American law could impose lots of rulings that the American people don't want, such as approval of same-sex marriage, unlimited abortion, legalized prostitution and abolition of the death penalty. This would be a broadside assault on American sovereignty.
Foreign law is fundamentally different from American law. Whereas our Constitution sets forth limited governmental powers and recognizes broad individual rights against government (such as freedom of religion and speech), European constitutions proclaim entitlements to government services such as education, health care, maternity leave, housing and environmental protection.
We certainly don't want to import law from foreign countries that recognize polygamy, arranged marriages between cousins, so-called honor killings of women who reject such arrangements, cutting off hands as punishment for theft, stoning women to death as punishment for adultery and prohibiting the private ownership of guns.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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