Smith on Judicial Activism and Freedom of Religion
Today's hearing addresses an important subject matter: the right of Congress to prevent the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts from reviewing a specialized category of cases that touches upon religious faith.
The legislation before us that facilitates this also imposes a tough penalty - impeachment - on any federal judge who ignores Congress' directive.
The bill addresses tangential but related issues as well, including the obligation of state courts to observe federal precedents on constitutional matters and the ability of federal judges to use "foreign" legal sources when interpreting the Constitution.
H.R. 3799 is the latest in a series of legislative and oversight responses to questionable, or at least controversial, federal court decisions.
For the most part, I subscribe to the notion that the American justice system is the envy of the world.
But it is far from perfect as the behavior of unprincipled trial lawyers and activist judges attest.
Religious faith and practice are part of the American culture.
Many of our ancestors fled to the colonies that became this country to avoid religious persecution.
Hundreds of years later our respective faiths inform and influence our behavior as individuals and as a nation.
I firmly believe that Americans are the most prosperous and caring people in world history largely because we are a religious people.
But our status as the leader of the free and civilized world is also based on our commitment to the rule of law.
All of are bound by it, from Presidents to truck drivers to judges to waitresses.
We cannot function as a society if some citizens are beyond the law's reach; we cannot pick and choose those laws we will obey.
Academics, legislators, and other interested parties are divided as to whether "court-stripping" bills are constitutionally sound.
I look forward to our hearing because we have a balanced panel of experienced and learned witnesses.
I am confident that our discussion this afternoon will be informative and constructive.
That concludes my opening remarks. I recognize the Gentlemen from California, Mr. Berman, for his statement.