As someone who has argued and worked in favor of a “limited, Constitutional government” for years, I recognize that most of the general public doesn’t understand at all what that means or why conservatives support it. It doesn’t help that media types seemingly labels anyone who supports the Constitution as ‘anti-government.’ Normally, the argument over the size and scope of government revolves around money – how much of it our government is taking from us and how “big” government programs/expenditures have become. But while most of the rhetorical battles regarding the size of government revolve around how much we spend, a serious problem no doubt and a good indicator, it misses the true nature of the problem with anything but a limited, Constitutional government.
That is the simple concept that the larger and less limited a government becomes, the fewer freedoms we as citizens enjoy, or in the very least the more restrictions are placed on our freedoms. Now to be sure there are libertarian-types who scream such concepts at the top of their lungs, but even they, for the most part, miss the correct remedy. And most Americans simply don’t understand the idea that freedom is incompatible with big government.
This week’s Presidential executive order prohibiting non-profit organizations (think religious based soup kitchens, anti-human trafficking organizations, women’s shelters, etc.) from receiving “federal” funds if they don’t have “non-discrimination” policies that include sexual orientation is a case in point. Based on a cursory reading of the “comment” sections of related stories, the three most prominent responses are: 1) hyper-exuberance from the sexually obsessed secular left, 2) if you don’t like it don’t take federal funds from most libertarian types, and 3) religious liberty in America is being stripped away daily by government actions like this one proves government hostility to religious Americans from conservatives.
Each simply demonstrates existing bias.
I have another response. While I certainly agree that the action by the President will invite government endorsed religious discrimination against non-profit organizations that provide life-saving services across the country, it is response #2 that I find quite interesting, incredibly naïve and quietly insidious.
It is undoubtedly the case that religious ministries that provide a vast array of services to millions upon millions of Americans could simply reject federal funding and continue their work – albeit for exponentially smaller populations of our citizens. But there’s something crafty about this route, and it’s the real reason that government, outside of its Constitutional jurisdiction, is such a threat.
A case in point took place a couple of years ago during a General Assembly debate over legislation that protects faith-based child placement agencies acting according to their faith principles. The law was necessary because there was an effort to force these ministries – like Catholic Charities – to violate their orthodoxy regarding human sexuality and family and adopt children to same-sex “couples.” At one point, an attorney for the ACLU argued, “Adoption is a quintessential government activity.”
Adoption a government activity? The ACLU attorney was obviously ignorant of, or ignored, the history of adoption, which began in the United States in the nineteenth century within the church. Adoption has always been first and foremost a religious activity, with the government coming in later to “regulate.” Of course, over time, that regulation morphed into funding, and then, all of the sudden, it’s a “government” activity with all the strings attached. Suddenly, what was a religious activity was so no longer.
Another similar example is the concept of “government speech.” This comes into play at events like public school graduation ceremonies, where the speeches given by otherwise free students are regularly expunged of religious references because courts have determined that, in that context, the speech is owned by the government. Let that sink in for a moment. Someone please tell me exactly where in the Constitution of the United States the government is given control over anyone’s speech or the authority to acquire the speech of its citizens and call it its own. But pseudo-civil liberty groups like the ACLU regularly hide behind the concept that speech can be owned by the government to accomplish their anti-religious agenda.
Every time the government leaks outside of its jurisdiction and something becomes a “government activity,” freedom has to diminish. The work done by those religious non-profits to feed the hungry, shelter the abused, provide for the orphan, and minister to the homeless are quintessential religious activities that the government has confiscated as its own, to the detriment of the religious groups trying to fulfill their callings to be sure, but beyond that, to the detriment of those being served.
The short term solution likely to be sought by conservatives is to reverse the President’s executive order through the courts. They just may win; but the long term solution is much more difficult – reversing decades of government growth that has transformed religious activities into government ones. That may take generations, if it's possible at all.