Behind Our Backs

  Our Congressmen can get up to plenty of mischief when they're in session, and sometimes it's a relief when they go home. But last week we found out how much mischief can take place when they're gone. President Clinton took advantage of the Congressional Memorial Day recess to sign an executive order barring discrimination against homosexuals in federal employment. Not only is the order bad policy, but it also sends the wrong message about how about our experiment in ordered liberty is supposed to work. On May 28, President Clinton signed an executive order that added "sexual orientation" to the classes protected from discrimination in federal employment. The president solemnly declared that "individuals should not be denied a job on the basis of something that has no relationship to their ability to perform the work." He then called on Congress to pass legislation to amend our civil-rights laws to include "sexual orientation" in the list of protected classes. In other words, the president treated the law as if it were the law for the federal government, and then asked Congress to pass it. That, of course, is precisely backwards. And he knows full well that that Congress is not likely to do it. Even after decades of homosexual propaganda, most Americans do not regard homosexuality as being analogous to race or ethnicity. They agree with Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, who says that "homosexuality is not a civil right. It’s not like skin color, or ethnicity, or place of birth. It is defined by conduct, which is subject to moral concerns." This belief isn’t evidence of animus, bigotry, or so-called homophobia. In fact, as Boston University sociologist Alan Wolfe writes in the New York Times Magazine, Americans are inclined to live and let live. However, most Americans believe that civil rights for homosexuals signal more than mere tolerance. Such rights imply moral approval. And, Wolfe notes, Americans are unlikely to change their minds on this score. The president and gay-rights activists know this—and that's why they chose the means they did: an executive order issued when Congress was not in session. Once again, our elites are attempting to bypass the democratic process on a question of great moral importance. They're attempting to shove their preferred solution to a thorny moral issue down the throats of the body politic. Clearly, they have not learned the lessons of Roe v. Wade. In the case of abortion, our elites attempted to silence what philosopher Hannah Arendt called "the democratic conversation." Instead of deciding the issue, abortion supporters—and the Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of overthrowing abortion laws in every state—injured our democracy. Twenty-five years later, people still are ferociously divided over abortion. And the Court’s usurpation of the democratic process has called into question the very legitimacy of our constitutional regime. You and I need to call our representatives and urge them to pass legislation overturning the president’s attempt to sneak something into the law through an executive order. Let’s not have a repeat of Congress’s turning its back on the usurpation of the abortion issue. Congress needs to put the other two branches of government in their proper constitutional place. And we need to teach our neighbors about what is at stake: Democratic societies should not be deciding important questions after our representatives have turned out the lights and gone home. They should be settled in broad daylight by the people themselves—in open debate.


Chuck Colson


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