Sunday, June 08, 2008

Unconstitutional Creep?

Please keep in mind, I'm just thinking aloud, as it were.

How are we going to determine where the government ends and our lives begin? For over 200 years we in the United States have had the privilege of living under (arguably) the best government system ever devised by man. It's a government "... of the people, by the people and for the people ..." unsurpassed in allowing the greatest freedom for its citizens yet still allowing for rules and regulations to keep honest people honest.

Yet, lately it seems we've been seeing state, federal and local governments interfering with people's lives to the point where I wish we'd all ask ourselves what limits are there on governmental interference in our lives.

I'm not trying to take any particular side in the issue, but I think my questions are illustrated best in the ongoing case of the polygamous sect located near San Angelo, Texas.

These folks consider themselves to be the true and proper worshipers of God according to their interpretation of the scriptures of the Mormon faith. They were located in Utah and when they were forced out of the larger Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, they built themselves a place where they could worship as they saw fit.

One of their beliefs is that it is permissible and right for a man to have more than one wife. Western culture has long found polygamy unacceptable, even to the point where most western governments have laws against marriage to more than one person at a time.

Indeed, many of us (me included) probably think polygamy is wrong and that marriage should be limited to one person at a time. But, if these folks sincerely believe they are permitted to marry more than one person at a time, is the government right to step in and "correct" the situation? Although these folks are in the minority, do we as the majority have the right to go in and tell them what or what not to do?

There were accusations of abuse of the children in that group. It was said that some girls were forced to marry as young as 16 to men much older than themselves. This could easily be considered child abuse in our modern way of thinking. But, it wasn't all that long ago when it was perfectly acceptable for a girl of that age to marry. These folks are just continuing that way of life. Is it right for us as those who think marriage is only proper for people 18 and older to step in and tell those people what is right and what is wrong? Is that really abuse or just our way of justifying our actions in removing all the children from their parents' homes and shipping them who-knows-where across Texas into foster homes?

A judge recently ordered that all the children be returned to their parents at the group's compound. He found there was no justification to remove all the children based on one or two accusations of abuse and little real proof any abuse occurred. I looked on via CNN Headline News and wondered to myself, "I really don't agree with most of that group's teachings, but is it right for me to judge what they do if they are truly living their lives and worshiping God as they see as right and proper?"

So I ask again, How are we going to determine where the government ends and our lives begin? The Constitution is very direct to this point: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." Where does "free exercise thereof" end? We're told by judges we can't talk about God in public schools because it establishes a government religion. Does not passing laws against polygamy do the same thing by imposing a religious view on people who believe polygamy is right and proper under the terms of their religion?

I think a tempered and reasoned discussion needs to be undertaken in order for us, as residents of the US, to learn how far is too far in the government's reach. Perhaps this article can be a catalyst for that discussion.

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