In the news today, you will no doubt hear about the US Supreme Court's decision to abolish the death penalty for children. Today marks a proud moment for campaigners for human rights in this free land. Today the nation of liberty joins Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and The People's Republic of China in banning the execution of minors. In fact, only these seven nations plus the US have executed children since 1990, and all of the other seven banned the practice before America. In the grand scheme of life, this doesn't affect that many people - only seventy people are on death row for crimes committed as juveniles, and in the last twenty years, just twenty-two have been executed. Not surprisingly, twelve of the twenty-two child-criminals killed have been in Texas. The symbolic impact, though, is great. We've proudly joined Iran and Congo in standing up for human rights. Now if we could just ratify the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child -- the US and Somalia are the only nations on the planet that haven't ratified this document, and Somalia hasn't had a functioning government in thirteen years. That's a decent excuse. What is ours?
Just as interesting as the opinion issued today is the dissent from the 5-4 Court, some of which is referenced in this article. Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan justice, wrote the opinion, and Antonin Scalia, another Reagan justice, wrote the dissent. Scalia objects to the influence of world opinion on US law, writing, "The court proclaims itself the 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 legislature. I do not believe that the meaning of our [Constitution] should be determined by the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners."
When every single government on the planet has recognized that the execution of children is immoral, perhaps it is prudent to listen. When the worst human-rights offenders on earth have deemed that this action is too repugnant even to them, perhaps we should consider the voice of the world community. Everyone recognizes that serious and terrible human rights abuses occur - likely daily - in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, the DRC, etc. In my opinion, that does not excuse the fact that they have taken a step that the US has been unwilling to take until this decision.
No one is suggesting that our Constitution be interpreted by a U.N. committee. No one is suggesting that control of our laws be handed over to international consensus. Yet when the world speaks clearly with one voice on the immorality of a single action of our government, we are told that our government must never give heed to the reflection we see in the mirror the world holds up to us. God bless America indeed. We need it.