Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Constitutional Basis For and Restrictions on Social Conservatism

Let me start by saying that I consider myself a social conservative in most ways. I am strongly in favor of fidelity in marriage and traditional families and believe that they are the best way to raise children. I believe the traditional family is the foundation of a solid and productive society. I believe that choosing to live by a moral code that challenges and overcomes the natural or carnal impulses of mankind is one of the most important things that we do in this life. I also believe that, in some cases, social conservatives ask the government to punish or restrict people who don't agree with them about specific actions or even beliefs. When that approach infringes upon the freedoms and rights of others, it leaves the realm of being "righteous" and becomes judgemental and tyrannical.

As always, I must make decisions based on principles of truth and the foundation of the US Constitution. Here are the principles as I see them.

1. The role of the federal government is limited to those things the US Constitution requires of it. All other choices devolve to the states and to the citizens. (Amendment 10)

2. Freedom of religion is one of the bedrock rights of the republic. (Amendment 1)

3. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated... (Amendment 4)

4. The moral character of a society has a direct correlation with its destiny. In a monarchy, the character of the king or queen has historically been of great influence on the character of the people. In a republic such as ours, the moral character of the representatives of the states and the people is very influential on the perceptions and actions of the people. The laws the representatives create, support and enforce encourage or discourage moral actions by the people.

5. Morally specific laws are often a response to and a reflection of a decreasing moral character in the general populace and encourage good people to do better, but bad people to disregard law in general.

6. Morally specific laws often exceed the limits of power allowed the federal government by the Constitution.

7. The principles of unalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness should never be abridged by law unless actions taken under those rights infringe on the similar rights of others. All laws should reflect and defend those basic human rights.

8. The electorate should seek and promote men and women of high moral character for public office. When representatives are found to be derelict in their character, they should be removed from office by vote or, in cases of malfeasance or crime, by impeachment or recall.

9. Legislation should attempt to sustain and support moral character in the people, but not to force it except when the actions taken affect others adversely in their persons or property.

10. State and local laws and policies that discourage immorality and educate about its negative consequences, if carefully crafted to avoid persecuting minority beliefs, are permissable and often beneficial. Federal law does not include the mandate to support community standards, but only to "promote the general welfare".

11. Protection of children from physical and emotional harm that comes from exposure to negative experience and media is a proper role of the Federal Government.

How this affects social conservatism and those of us who subscribe to it is as follows.

The desire to ban abortions is consistent with the Declaration of Independence and Constitution since one of the unalienable rights is the right to life. When life begins can be debated, but the extreme position that life is not viable until after the birth is completed cannot be defended. There are those that propose that children can be "aborted" even up to hours after birth. Such position is anathema to the right to life. If there is question as to when life begins, we should err on the side of protecting life. Thus a complete ban on abortion with possible exceptions in the case of danger to the life of the mother is compatible with the Constitution.

Marriage is not correctly perceived as an institution of the federal government. Marriage is a social contract either sanctified by God or religious communities through religious ceremony or by agreement between people. The government has no right to either allow or disallow marriage between responsible adults under the law. The state and local governments do have the right to grant certain preferences and privileges to types of social contracts that it deems conducive to the "general welfare".  Federal tax law should not be used for social engineering.

I believe that pornography is damaging to both those who use it and those who create it. The courts have held that adults have the right to view it if they wish. I believe it appropriate that we make it much more difficult for children to view, especially inadvertently stumbling on it through deceptive websites, etc. I have long advocated that we mandate that pornographic sites use the .xxx extender (similar to .com or .net) and that browsers be fitted with easy to set up extender blocks to avoid unintentional exposure to those materials. Those who put pornographic material on any other type of site should be subject to fines and incarceration. This approach respects both the freedom of speech and expression and the rights we all should have not to have destructive images and other material thrust upon us. Child pornography is especially damaging to both viewers and victims. Prosecution of those viewing and producing these items should continue.

The advances in medical, biological and robotic sciences will continue to challenge us to determine what is morally acceptable in our society. My hope is that we will base our debates on these issues on sound and moral principles and not just on what is possible. We have already had major tragedies because we moved too fast with new technology without understanding all the unintended consequences we were creating. Thalidomide babies were just one of the more well-known of these type of consequences.

I stand strongly with those who uphold traditional families and traditional family values, but do not believe it morally right to try to force others to believe or even act as I try to unless their actions impinge on the rights and freedoms or well-being of others.

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