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2.5.3 Law

The law of the United States is derived from the common law of England, which was in force at the time of the Revolutionary War. However, the supreme law of the land in the United States is the United States Constitution and, as stated in the Con­stitution, treaties to which the U.S. is a party. These form the basis for federal laws under the federal constitution in the United States, circumscribing the boundaries of the jurisdiction of federal law and the laws in the fifty U.S. states and territories.

As described in 4.1 above, the Federal Government itself consists of three branches that are designed to check and balance each other: the judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court. In most States, this is then repeated at a local level, using a local constitution as the level below the Federal one.

Federal law in the United States originates with the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to enact statutes for certain specific purposes, such as regulat­ing commerce. Nearly all statutes have been codified in the United States Code. Many statutes give executive branch agencies the power to create regulations, which are published in the Code of Federal Regulations and also carry the force of law. Many lawsuits turn on the meaning of a federal statute or regulation, and judicial interpretations of such meaning carry legal force.

American States are separate sovereign bodies with their own constitutions and have the unlimited power to make laws covering anything not already decided by the federal Constitution or federal statutes. Nearly all States started with the same English common law base, but the passage of time has resulted in enormous diversity in the laws of the fifty States. Over time, State courts expanded the old common law rules in different directions and with different interpretations, and State legislatures have passed various statutes expanding or overriding such judge-made precedents.

Unlike the rest of the country, state law in Louisiana is based on the Napoleonic Code, inherited from its time as a French colony. However, its criminal law has been necessarily modified by common law influences and the supremacy of the federal Constitution.

The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washing­ton, D.C, is the highest court in the United States; that is, it has ultimate judicial authority within the United States to interpret and decide questions of federal law, including the Constitution of the United States. It can overturn any decision made by a su­preme court in any of the States. The Supreme Court is some­times known by the acronym SCOTUS.

The Supreme Court, Washington DC right

2.5.4 Religion

The Constitution of the USA guarantees of separation of church and state, and freedom to choose religion. In practise, this was true for much of the population bvt not for Native Americans where legislation forbade their choice of religion and mandated Christianity.

The percentage of Americans going to Church (or temple or mosque) at least once a week is significantly higher than in almost all European countries, but fig­ures vary greatly despite all surveys agreeing on this tendency.

practiced in the United States) are (in order): Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pres­byterian, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), Church of Christ

and Congregational.

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