Saturday, March 24, 2007

Melts in your Heart, not in your Head

This is my nomination for "dumb conservative column of the day." It's by Jay Sekulow and covers an ACLU challenge to a township law in Galloway, NJ forbidding convicted sex offenders from living within 2500 ft. of any school, park, playground or day care. The ACLU is apparently seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional.

Now, for my part, I don't know that this is exactly unconstitutional. I'm not sure what the basis for a challenge would be - except to exploit yet again another time already the SCOTUS civil rights rulings for something to which they were clearly not intended to apply. Honestly - there can be no "community interest" in fostering diversity that includes sex offenders!

All the same, it should be easy for even a fossil like Sekulow to see that this is a bad law. Granted, it should probably be opposed in the local legislature, and not in the courts - but take an honest look and tell me true what good can possibly come of this law?

Let's consider the impact it will have on sex crimes. After taking a long, hard look - I'm gonna go with 0. 2500 ft.? Are you KIDDING me? As though it's somehow difficult to believe that someone who would break the law and risk SERIOUS butt-rapin' time in prison for preying on children is gonna find 2500 ft. an insurmountable barrier to satisfying his lusts? What's the thought process here? "Gee, I'd really like to step out and take some lollies to the local playground hoping to lure a kiddie into my car, but it's 2500ft. away! I'll just jerk off instead."

It's patently absurd.

The only thing this law seems likely to accomplish is set a nasty precedent - you know, the kind that lets governments decide arbitrarily where given classes of people can live.

Here's Sekulow's "reasoning:"

The issue in this case is not whether the sex offenders can live in the Township - they can; rather, the ordinance speaks only to where in the Township they may live

Oh, brilliant, that! TRANSLATION: the issue isn't telling people where they can live on the township level, it's telling them where they can live at a finer-grained, even MORE local level.

This distinction is completely useless. Whichever way you wanna cast it, Einstein, you're still allowing the local government to get really, REALLY damn specific about where people can and can't live.

Alright, you might say, but these are convicted sex offenders. Yes, exactly - with convicted being the operative word here. As in - already been to jail, already served their time, already more likely to come under police scrutiny than other fine citizens of New Jersey. If the state believes they are still a danger to the public, then it has a duty to keep them in jail until they are not, no? Why is the government releasing people who are still a danger at all? Alternatively, if they are released, then, legally speaking, they have paid their judicial debts. Further (and meaningless, at that) restrictions seem like an admission that the system isn't functioning (and therefore needs more of a tweak than this!).

More to the point, I don't see why convicted sex offenders are any worse than, say, convicted murderers or pimps or whatever else. Do we need a law prohibiting known car theives from approaching car lots? Or keeping known murderers away from people in general? I mean, this gets really absurd after a while. If the state has concerns about recidivism, it needs to address those concerns at sentencing.

One must ask, "Why does the ACLU protect pedophiles and pornographers and, at the same time, challenge prayer and religious expression?"

Oh grow up, already! The ACLU doesn't challenge "prayer and religious expression," it challenges government sanction of those things. Now, I admit to not being an ardent fan of the ACLU - but they've done a lot of very useful things for this country, and protecting the Establishment Clause is definitely one of them. I'm sick to death of religious right types complaining that their religions are under attack. Nothing could be further from the truth. Absolutely NO ONE in the ACLU objects to your right to practice your religion. What bugs them is that you seek to force the rest of us to participate in your practices! Why, for example, would you need prayer time each day at school? Can't you just pray on your own before the bell rings? And why do you need a public prayer at school graduation? Can't you pray silently before the ceremony begins? Or even each in his own group just before the ceremony starts?

Now I admit, I'm a tinge anti-religious. To me, it's mostly irrational fantasy - a cheap way to avoid dealing with real emotional problems that arise from the human condition. But that's my personal opinion, and I'm perfectly willing to admit that, when all is said and done, I just don't know whether God is real. The religious crowd might be on the right track for all I know.

What I DO know is that real faith doesn't need billboards. I understand that some religions consider it a Holy Duty to try to convert the unconverted - and I definitely don't want to deny them the right to try. That is a protected First Amendment right like any other. But school-sanctioned prayer does NOT fall under this right. There are other ways to go about it - so please do so and quit trying to sneak in state recognition of your religion through the backdoor. It's a goal you shouldn't be pursuing, no matter how "faithful" you are. In its way, the Prayer in School movement is no different from the Gay "Rights" Lobby. Gay "rights" activists are trying to sneak in official recognition of their lifestyle - in effect forcing it on those who disapprove (and have the right to disapprove) - by having the government declare (highly implausibly, I might add) that whatever passes for "marriage" in their community (as of last month) is the selfsame institution that is well-established in the heterosexual community. It just ain't so. Likewise, the Prayer in School people (and the "Teach the Controversy" people - who are, to 99% accuracy, the same people) are trying to sneak in state sanction of belief in God (even if not a specific one) by having official state institutions include official state nods to religion in their official state ceremonies. It's sneaky, it's cowardly, it's counterproductive (becuase REAL conversion is not a "default" choice), and it's unconstitutional.

THIS is why the ACLU makes a distinction, moron. Not because they like pedophiles and hate religion.

Once again we have evidence of a Conservative thinking with his feelings and not with his principles. Principles are situation-independent. Clearly, this isn't the kind of thinking that's going on here. Clearly, what Sekulow is advocating is that we defend people not on the basis of abstract rights, but rather on the basis of whether we approve of their beliefs and lifestyles. That sounds like a recipe for fascism to me.

You don't have to like people to believe they have rights. All you have to do is ask, as Kant would have done, whether the law you are advocating could become a general rule? In this case, a heartfelt NO THANKS! I do NOT, repeat NOT, want the government micromanaging where people can live if that's all the same to you. I realize this law doesn't even remotely go that far - but it does lay the path for later laws going incrementally further "that direction." What adds insult to injury here is that Sekulow wants to start us down this slippery slope on the cheap. The law isn't even effective, for cryin' out loud! If we're going to set a bad precedent, can we at least get something out of it, please???


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