Center for Individual Liberty
On Sunday, Senator Osmond released more specific details of his proposal to reform education law in Utah. The proposal contains three separate pieces of legislation, the first of which interests us the most.
Titled “Parental Right to Educational Freedom,” this first bill would require parents to “choose an educational pathway for each child upon 6 years of age”—the age at which, under Utah law, a child is considered a “school-age minor.” Parents would sign an affidavit indicating whether they will be enrolling their child in a government school, private school, or educating them in the home.
Some parents have voiced concern in social media regarding this requirement, requiring two important clarifications:
This article was written by John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. It is published here with the author’s permission.
“Democracy means that if the doorbell rings in the early hours, it is likely to be the milkman.”—Winston Churchill
It’s 3 a.m. You’ve been asleep for hours when suddenly you hear a loud “Crash! Bang! Boom!” Based on the yelling, shouting and mayhem, it sounds as if someone—or several someones—are breaking through your front door. With your heart racing and your stomach churning, all you can think about is keeping your family safe from the intruders who have invaded your home. You have mere seconds before the intruders make their way to your bedroom. Desperate to protect your loved ones, you scramble to lay hold of something—anything—that you might use in self-defense. It might be a flashlight, your son’s baseball bat, or that still unloaded gun you thought you’d never need. In a matter of seconds, the intruders are at your bedroom door. You brace for the confrontation, a shaky grip on your weapon. In the moments before you go down for the count, shot multiple times by the strangers who have invaded your home, you get a good look at your accosters. It’s the police.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying this: the problem is not that all police are bad. The problem, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, is that increasing numbers of police officers are badly trained, illiterate when it comes to the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, and, in some cases, willfully ignorant about the fact that they are supposed to be peacekeepers working for us, the taxpayer.
Investigative journalist Radley Balko has published six articles in a series about efforts in Utah to reform the way police handle drug enforcement cases and the “militarization” trend we’ve become familiar with. Balko, author of the new book Rise of the Warrior Cop, also published a paper in 2006 on the same subject, “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.” Download a free copy here.
Our proposal, and our president’s profile, is included in the third article. The entire series is worth reading. Here are the articles:
- How A Drug Raid Gone Wrong Sparked A Call For Change In The Unlikeliest State In The Nation
- As The Drug War Escalates, SWAT Teams Become ‘Bullies With Badges And Guns’
- Meet The Activist Who’s Bringing Conservatives On Board The Police Reform Movement
- An Occupy Activist’s New Cause: Drug Raids And Police Abuse
- An Unexpected Reformer Fights To Hold Police Accountable
- A Police Chief Tries To Reform The System From Within
Within a few weeks we hope to announce details about our proposal to establish better guidelines regarding how and when officers may forcibly enter a person’s home. “Like” our Facebook page to stay up to date!
Two bills will be proposed in Utah’s next general session, beginning in January 2014, to raise the age limit for those seeking to purchase tobacco products. Utah law currently prohibits those 18 and younger from “buy[ing] or attempt[ing] to buy, accept[ing], or ha[ving] in his possession any cigar, cigarette, electronic cigarette, or tobacco in any form.”
Two legislators, Representative Powell and Senator Reid, aim to increase that prohibition to the age of 21. Their motives are just, in aiming to decrease addiction to tobacco among young adults, but their means are misguided. Criminalizing legal adults from engaging in a behavior harmful to themselves is not the proper role of government; Utah law should protect people from harm by others, not micromanage their lives to minimize harm they may bring to themselves.
Only five of the 50 states require or permit jury trials for cases where the state is seeking to legally sever a parent-child relationship. The remaining states prohibit the practice, whether through statute, case law, or court rule. Utah should join these few states and buck the trend by allowing jury trials for these cases.
The fate of a family should not be exclusively placed in the hands of a single judge. In our interview last week with Vanessa Sommerfield, whose four children were taken from her under what appear to be extremely dubious circumstances, and whose biased judge refused to recuse herself, a spotlight was directed at one of many cases in Utah where parents have been stripped of their relationship to their children by the state for highly questionable reasons.
Jury trials are a bedrock of the American justice system. During the Stamp Act controversy, John Adams railed against an increase in judicial authority in admiralty courts as “the most grievous innovation of all.” He noted specifically that, “In these courts, one judge presides alone! No juries have any concern there! The law and the fact are both to be decided by the same single judge.”
Weldon Angelos was a Salt Lake City resident who grew up in poverty and struggled to find his way early in life. The son of a Greek immigrant, his family’s financial condition left him wanting much as a child. He found some success as a rap musician, and around the same time began to sell marijuana to make extra cash—to better provide for his own children, he claims.
In 2002 he sold three half-pound bags, worth a total of $350 at the time, to a police informant—an individual who faced his own drug charges but was courting favor of his prosecutors by assisting in catching other alleged criminals. Weldon was arrested by local police officers working in tandem with federal agents.
The informant claimed that Angelos was carrying a gun during the transaction—a claim not substantiated by any evidence. Yet this claim alone served as basis to impose mandatory minimum sentences during prosecution, as Congress had imposed harsh punishments for gun-related drug offenses in hopes of deterring the behavior.
Utah law clearly and correctly states that parents possess “a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent’s children.” Unfortunately, other sections of the state code conflict with this recognition of natural rights.
Despite affirming the primacy of parental stewardship over a child, the state mandates that “the parent of a school-age minor shall enroll and send the school-age minor to a public or regularly established private school.” Several limited exceptions are offered, most notably for those parents who sign an affidavit that they will be homeschooling their child. But even this exception comes with restraints; parents wishing to educate their own children must use “the subjects the State Board of Education requires to be taught in public schools” and “for the same length of time as minors are required by law to receive instruction in public schools.” In other words, this limited concession comes with significant strings attached.
In the section of code emphasizing parental rights, we further read that the state recognizes that “a parent has the right, obligation, responsibility, and authority to raise, manage, train, educate, provide for, and reasonably discipline the parent’s children” and, importantly, that “the state’s role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.” This recognition appears to be in name only, for the relevant law falls short of what a full recognition would require.
“Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.” —Lord Acton
“Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny.” —Robert A. Heinlein
As I write this, I am concerned for my own safety from my government. Imagine that—in the United States of America—a natural born citizen in the supposed “freest country in the world” is nervous to write something for fear of merely espousing and promoting an idea.
As a country, how have we come to this?
Last Wednesday, The Guardian published an article revealing that the NSA has been collecting millions of Verizon’s customer’s phone records. For the United States, this is just one more uncovered scandal of nearly half a dozen other high-profile scandals in recent weeks showing the government’s inability to be accountable and responsible for the powers and authorities it has wrongly arrogated unto itself.
“If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if even one life can be saved, we have an obligation to try.”
“Within three months of the precrime program, the homicidal rates in the District of Columbia had reduced 90 percent.”
—Minority Report, 2002
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, gun control advocates pressed with renewed vigor to revisit and restore federal gun control measures in an attempt to crack down on violence. Conservative opposition was loud and clear: minimizing tragedy and preventing violence is an insufficient basis to impose such regulations. These measures, touted by their proponents as “common sense,” infringe upon one’s right to acquire and use a firearm. While some studies have suggested that gun control measures can save lives, that fact alone does not persuade many who instead insist that the government lacks the legitimate authority to punish peaceful people because other gun owners have been irresponsible or outright criminal in their actions.
Simply put, supporters of so-called “gun rights” believe that preventing gun violence is not a reason to impose such regulations. They argue that despite such regulations, those who want to obtain and use guns will do so regardless of what the law says. These regulations will only violate individual rights, and turn innocent people into criminals.
I recently returned from a vacation with my family in California, where I grew up. Our days were filled with fun activities, family outings, and sights that brought back great memories. Despite my efforts to have a break from working in and thinking about politics, there was an ever-present reminder of how bad California’s overreaching, paternalistic state has become.
California outlaws using cell phones while driving. The various restrictions and regulations which prohibit and seek to punish the act of talking on the phone while driving are voluminous, but they aren’t hidden in obscure pages of the state’s legislative code. Instead, drivers are incessantly reminded of them.
In a 20 mile stretch of freeway, I counted easily over a dozen large, bright, electronic signs reminding drivers of the law, the associated fine if you were to be caught, and a statement saying that “it’s not worth it.” Apparently it’s not enough to criminalize the action—lawmakers feel they must provide propaganda to encourage increased compliance.