Cardinal Kasper

Cardinal Kasper’s Challenge Distracts from the Real Problem

As the Synod of Bishops on the Family convenes this week, the Catholic Church has a heaven-sent opportunity to atone for one of the biggest failures in modern ecclesiastical history and in so doing to take a major step in resuscitating the Christian faith in the daily lives of millions of people.

The provocative challenge of Cardinal Walter Kasper highlights one of the Church’s (and the churches’) most spectacular lapses in judgment: the refusal to contest the “abolition of marriage” (in Maggie Gallagher’s phrase) that was effected by “no-fault” divorce.

Yet as currently framed, the debate over Cardinal Kasper’s proposals stunningly misses the point. By casting the debate in terms of admitting divorced and remarried persons to communion, the Church appears determined once again to avoid confronting the central evil of the Divorce Revolution, the evil that still taints the Church, along with the family and civic life, and one no stable civilization can tolerate. This is involuntary divorce and the injustice committed against the forcibly divorced or innocent spouse, along with his or her children.

The Cardinal makes no distinction between a spouse who abandons the marriage, commits adultery, divorces unilaterally without recognized grounds (“no-fault”), or otherwise violates the marriage covenant in legally recognized ways, and a spouse who is the victim of such deeds. To treat the sinner and the sinned against as if they are the same is to deny the very concept of justice and to place the Church and other institutions on the side of injustice.

This willful neglect of justice in adjudicating divorce—not the dissolution of households per se—was the vitiating outrage of “no-fault” divorce. By not challenging the state’s claim that it may dissolve marriages without any consideration for the consequences or injustices inflicted on the forcibly divorced, the Church followed the state into the realm of amorality, a realm suited to the aggrandizement of institutional power but fundamentally antithetical to both the Gospel and a free society.

Since this fateful decision, the oxymoron of “no-fault” justice has been gradually poisoning both our culture and the fundamental institutions of our civilization, starting with the family, passing through the Church, and extending to the state machinery, such as the judiciary. Divorce-without-consequences is exacting a devastating toll on our children, our social order, our economic solvency, and our constitutional rights. It has led directly to explosions in cohabitation, illegitimacy, welfare, and crime and to demands for same-sex marriage.

No public debate preceded this ethical bombshell in the 1970s, and none has taken place since. Legislators “were not responding to widespread public pressure but rather acceding to the well-orchestrated lobbying of a few activists,” writes Bryce Christensen. Critically, these are the same sexual ideologues who have since expanded their campaign into a much broader agenda of sexual radicalism: same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, sex education, women in combat, homosexuals in the military, Obamacare, and more. Feminists were drafting no-fault divorce laws in the 1940s, which the National Association of Women Lawyers now describes as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”

The result effectively abolished marriage as a legal contract. Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.

The new laws did not stop at removing the requirement of citing grounds for a divorce, to allow divorce by mutual consent, as deceptively advertised at the time. Instead they created unilateral and involuntary divorce, so that one spouse may dissolve a marriage without any agreement or fault by the other. Moreover, the spouse who abrogates the marriage contract incurs no liability for the costs or consequences, creating a unique and unprecedented legal anomaly. “In all other areas of contract law those who break a contract are expected to compensate their partner,” writes Robert Whelan of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs, “but under a system of ‘no fault’ divorce, this essential element of contract law is abrogated.”

The result was to unleash precisely the moral and social chaos that it is the role of the family to control, and powerful interests were not slow to capitalize. Legal practitioners immediately began encouraging business by taking the side of the violator. Attorney Steven Varnis points out that “the law generally supports the spouse seeking the divorce, even if that spouse was the wrongdoer.” “No-fault” did not remove fault, therefore; it simply allowed government officials to redefine it however they pleased and to treat legally unimpeachable citizens as malefactors. “According to therapeutic precepts, the fault for marital breakup must be shared, even when one spouse unilaterally seeks a divorce,” observes Barbara Whitehead in The Divorce Culture. “Many husbands and wives who did not seek or want divorce were stunned to learn … that they were equally ‘at fault’ in the dissolution of their marriages.”

The judiciary was expanded from its traditional role of punishing crime or tort to refereeing private family life and punishing personal imperfections. One could now be summoned to court without having committed any legal infraction; the verdict was pre-determined; and one could be punished for things that were not illegal. Lawmakers created an “automatic outcome,” writes Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows. “A defendant is automatically found ‘guilty’ of irreconcilable differences and is not allowed a defense.”

Though marriage is a civil matter, the logic quickly extended into the criminal, including a presumption of guilt against the involuntarily divorced spouse (“defendant”). Yet formal due process protections of criminal proceedings did not apply, so forcibly divorced spouses became quasi-criminals not for recognized criminal acts but for failing or refusing to cooperate with the divorce by continuing to claim the protections and prerogatives of family life: living in the common home, possessing the common property, or—most vexing of all—parenting the common children.

Following from this are the horrendous civil liberties violations and flagrant invasions of family and individual privacy that are now routine in family courts. A personalized criminal code is legislated by the judge around the forcibly divorced spouse, controlling their association with their children, movements, and finances. Unauthorized contact with their children can be punished with arrest. Involuntarily divorced parents are arrested for running into their children in public, making unauthorized telephone calls, and sending unauthorized birthday cards.

Cardinal Kasper’s agenda ignores all this and will certainly make it worse. Indeed, what he is demanding is a kind of no-fault church discipline, which will debase the Eucharist and church membership, just as no-fault divorce has already debased marriage and the secular justice system, by allowing clergy to redefine sin and cheapen repentance: “If a divorced and remarried person is truly sorry that he or she failed in the first marriage … can we refuse him or her the sacrament of penance and communion?” But sincere repentance requires an effort to rectify the harm caused by one’s sin. Does the Cardinal’s definition of “truly sorry” entail undertaking to compensate one’s former spouse for being summarily evicted from his or her home, or deprived of his children, or serving jail time for unauthorized parenting or trumped-up accusations of “child abuse” or “domestic violence” that are now routine in divorce proceedings? Does it include compensating one’s children for depriving them of a father throughout their childhood? These are the realities of modern divorce, not the sanitized understanding being presented by the Cardinal.

But perhaps the most explosive question: Why is the Church not willing to sort out the difference, both in its doctrine and in each individual case? Is it because the distinction between justice and injustice—central to the Gospel itself—would force the Church to confront the injustices perpetrated by a state that has dangerously overstepped its authority and the Church’s own failure to act as the society’s conscience on a matter involving its own ministry?

For the Church is simply following the politicians. In contrast with same-sex marriage, abortion, and pornography, politicians and even self-described “pro-family” groups studiously avoid challenging divorce laws. “Opposing gay marriage or gays in the military is for Republicans an easy, juicy, risk-free issue,” Gallagher writes. “The message [is] that at all costs we should keep divorce off the political agenda.” The exception proves the rule. When Pope John Paul II spoke out in January 2002—calling divorce a “festering wound” with “devastating consequences that spread in society like the plague”—he was attacked not only from the left but also by conservatives like Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal.

Likewise, this power grab by ideologues and state functionaries at the expense of the family and private sphere of life was met by the churches with silence. Here is a sacrament consecrated by the Church, vowed before God and witnessed by the congregation. The state comes along and simply tears it up, and the Church mounts no serious response.

In the showdown that never took place over sexual morality and the supervision of private family life, this was the moment the two jurisdictions were forced into a direct confrontation and the state simply and decisively told the Church who is boss. From the moment that the Church failed to inform the state that it could not simply countermand God’s covenant governing the family, the Church has been little more than an ornament in marriage and therefore in the lives of most people.

Marriage is today the most critical interface of church and state. Whoso controls marriage governs society, not least because it becomes “the hand that rocks the cradle.”

This rivalry is not apparent in the terms by which marriage is contracted and consecrated. Here church and state cooperate quite effortlessly: a ceremony, a signature.

Where the power struggle ensues is in the terms by which a marriage can be dissolved, and it was the Divorce Revolution that precipitated the battle that the Church refused to fight. The Church, along with its Protestant counterparts, ceded to the state the authority to dissolve marriages at its own pleasure and on its own terms and to erect a regime of governmental micromanagement over the private lives of the contracted parties, innocent as well as guilty—all without scrutiny or objection by these churches who consecrated the supposedly sacred union.

Far from upholding a sacred covenant, the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are thus parties to a fraudulent contract. They have allowed their marriage ministry to become a bait-and-switch, luring unsuspecting parties into a supposedly binding and lifelong union, where they are then sitting ducks for state functionaries to come along and simply tear up the covenant and seize control over their lives and children. And the state tears up not only the secular contract, but the covenant between the spouses, the congregation, and God. The state’s edict countermands the churches’ covenant and with it the churches’ entire authority. With the churches’ acquiescence, the state’s officials put God in His place.

However impeccable the churches’ doctrine, and whatever verbal lamentations they have expressed over divorce “culture,” what the churches have not done is resist the state’s claim to monopoly control over the terms of divorce and to supervise the private lives of the forcibly divorced: the churches have never raised their voices against the state’s usurpation of power; they have never defended innocent victims of the unilateral divorce injustice or interposed themselves between the state and innocent spouses; they have never challenged state functionaries taking the homes and children of innocent people; they have never gone to court to see that justice is done to the involuntarily divorced; they have never campaigned to change the laws governing divorce or prevent the enactment of more; and they have never even discussed the possibility of threatening to not consecrate marriage covenants until the state stops unilaterally tearing them up.

This is demanding a lot from the churches and all of us. But less existential confrontations with the state faced churchmen like Ambrose and Becket and Fisher, and nothing less is required if the churches expect to withstand the crisis posed not only by figures like Cardinal Kasper but also the larger radical sexual regime: same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, sex education, Obamacare, plus the creeping criminalization of parents and others who dissent, including ordinary Christians.

Divorce is where Christians can and must draw a line and launch a vigorous counterattack that will enlist stakeholders from secular society: ordinary citizens who can at last be brought to realize why the Church and God must have a central place in both our public and private lives if we are to have any private lives at all.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published on Crisis Magazine.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

daddy in jail

Why Is Daddy in Jail?

The astounding fact is that, with the exception of convicted criminals, no one today has fewer rights than fathers.

Someday Hollywood make a movie of this, A father is sentenced to prison for wanting to take his son to a ballgame. Up against him are his ex-wife, the legal system, and various women’s groups, all declaring him a deadbeat and a batterer, all of it untrue. But as a result, he’s in a cell while his ex and her new boyfriend take little Johnny to a Mets game.

Improbable? Only in the sense that Hollywood would ever make such a movie. Unfortunately it’s an all too real scenario that is taking place everyday across the country.

The case of a man we’ll call Alan is fairly typical. Without warning Alan came home one day to find his apartment cleaned out. His wife and two-year-old girl were gone. Shortly afterwards Alan was summoned to court and as a “defendant,” was ordered to stay away from his daughter most of the time and to begin making child support payments. His two-hour, thrice-weekly visits with his daughter were supervised and she was not allowed to stay with him overnight, since his wife alleged that he was dangerous and would kidnap her. The accusations eventually proved groundless, and the supervision terminated. After a year Alan was permitted one overnight visit with his daughter per week. His wife, meanwhile, was never charged with making false accusations nor has the fabrication counted against her in the custody proceedings. Various experts testified that Alan is no danger whatever to his daughter and that he is a devoted and loving father. All these findings were ignored by the courts. More than four years after his wife left, the child remains with her. He has spent a $160,000 inheritance on legal fees, not counting about 40 percent of his income for child support, and now lives hand-to-mouth.

Then there’s Bruce, who was a truck driver in Boston and who came home one day to find his things on the street, the locks on his doors changed, and his wife’s new boyfriend already moved in. Angry and bewildered, Bruce kicked in the door and began shouting. (He did not strike anyone.) His wife called the police, who arrived and took Bruce away in handcuffs. She got a restraining order preventing any contact with his three children. When his son was hospitalized with an illness, he was not allowed to visit.

Eventually Bruce was allowed to see his children at a supervised visitation center with his wife and her boyfriend present in the next room. Another man, Tom, tells of how he was living with his wife in California, where they were raising their three children as vegetarians like themselves. He thought she was content until one day, when she told him she wanted to move back to her native Virginia. He agreed to the move. After establishing residency in Virginia, however, she left with the children, and he was hauled into court.

Then, after an injury left him without an adequate income he found himself in jail for failure to pay child support. Eventually he relocated in the Washington area to find work. Tom now drives three hours each way to get his children from his wife’s place in Virginia, twice every other weekend. His ex-wife subsequently gave up her vegetarianism and obtained a court order preventing him from discussing diet with his children. His children are used as informers to monitor his compliance, and their relationship is now strained.

Tom now belongs to a father’s group that meets in Arlington, Virginia. Almost every member has a similarly painful story. Some have not seen their children in years. The children of a few will no longer speak to them.

Others regularly drive hundreds of miles to visit their children in hotels or visitation centers. Several with no previous criminal records have spent time in jail. The group is currently involved with the case of Michael Mahoney, a father in an Arlington jail awaiting sentencing for criminal contempt. Mahoney has already lost his job, his home, his savings, his freedom, and most recently his health (he has developed congestive heart failure, severe stomach ulcers, sleep apnea, and has undergone brain surgery for subdural hematoma). His private life has also been exposed to public view and he himself vilified on “Geraldo” and at least one other nationally televised talk show.

And these fathers are angry. Alan describes the system as a legal “child-kidnapping and extortion racket.” Even more though, they are in shock. Like virtually all men in their position, none realized that such a thing could happen until it did. Worse still, these men-and millions more like them-have suddenly found that the assumptions they had made about wife beaters, child molesters, “deadbeat dads,” and O.J. Simpson are now being made about them. Many see themselves as having been abandoned not only by their wives but by friends and family members, who assume they “must have done something” to deserve losing their children. What their children “must have done” to deserve losing the care of even an imperfect father is seldom asked.

Fathers who attempt to contact their confiscated children or separated spouses can be arrested for “harassment” or “stalking,” an offense that can be defined as “unwelcome conversation.” “Stories of violations for minor infractions are legion,” the Boston Globe reported in May. “In one case, a father was arrested for violating an order when he put a note in his son’s suitcase telling the mother the boy had been sick over a weekend visit.

In another, a father was arrested for sending his son a birthday card.” The practice of arresting fathers for attending public events such as their children’s musical recitals or sports activities–events any stranger may attend–is one many find difficult to believe, but it is common. Last year National Public Radio broadcast a story on restraining order abuse centering on a father who was arrested in church for attending his daughter’s first communion. During the segment, an eight-year-old girl wails and begs to know when her father will be able to see her or call her on the phone. The answer, because of a “lifetime” restraining order, is “never.”

At once the most extensive and well-concealed denial of civil rights in America today, the plight of fathers and children is all-but-ignored by the media and virtually unknown beyond the rapidly increasing circle of its victims. Few people realize how easily and frequently children are now taken from fathers who have committed no actionable offense and for reasons that have nothing to do with the children’s wishes, safety, health, or welfare.

Contrary to common assumption, the prevalence of mother-custody is not a matter of simple sex-bias against fathers in mutually agreed to divorces. As American family courts now operate, a mother can have the father summoned to court and, without producing any evidence of wrongdoing, request that he be stripped of custody of his children and effectively ejected from his family, and in almost every case the judge will duly oblige.

Despite formal legal equality between parents, some 85 to 90 percent of custody awards go to mothers. One study in Arlington found that over a recent eighteen-month period, maternal custody was awarded in a hundred percent of decisions. This includes divorces in which the father has given neither grounds nor agreement. Most people probably accept some bias against fathers in custody cases when divorce is mutual. What is happening in family courts, however, is very different. It is one thing to say that young children need their mother; it is quite another to say a mother should have the arbitrary power to keep their father away.

Yet current judicial practice throughout most of the United States allows her to do just that. In fact, a mother can have had a half-dozen previous divorces, she can have deserted the marital home, she can abscond with the children, she can have committed adultery, she can level false charges, she can have assaulted the father, and none of these can be introduced as evidence against her in a custody decision. For a father, the simple fact of his being a father will be used to keep him away from his children six days out of seven, deprive him of any decision-making role, and dissolve his marriage over his objections.

Part of the problem originates in the advent of no-fault divorce in the early 1970s, which is often blamed by conservatives for leaving wives vulnerable to abandonment,. Yet it has also left fathers with no protection against the confiscation of their children. No-fault divorce laws did not stop at removing the requirement that there be grounds for a divorce, so as to allow for divorce by mutual consent; they also provided for what writer Maggie Gallagher calls “unilateral” divorce and removed any consideration of grounds from custody decisions.

Though changes in the divorce laws were legislative, it is the practitioners of family law who have benefited both in terms of power and profit, and they have not hesitated to exploit the opportunities to the full. Dickens’ observation “the one great principle of the…law is to make business for itself” could hardly be more strikingly (or destructively) validated.

There is nothing in the no-fault laws that require a judge to honor a mother’s initial request to remove the children from the father’s care and protection. A judge could simply decide that, prima facie, neither the father nor the children have committed any infraction that justifies their being forcibly separated, that they have a fundamental human and constitutional right not to be forcibly separated, and that neither the mother nor the court has any grounds to separate them.

Unfortunately, not only is the legal machinery an accomplice; in some ways it is the principal instigator. A mother who consults a divorce attorney will be advised that her best chance of gaining custody is simply to take the children and all their effects and leave without warning. If she has no place to go, she will be told that by accusing the father of sexual or physical abuse, however vaguely (often simply stating that she is “in fear”), she can easily obtain a restraining order immediately forcing him out of the family home. She will also learn that even if her claims are false, there are no legal consequences she will face for making them; her trumped- up accusations cannot even be used against her in a custody decision. In fact, they work so strongly in her favor that failure to advise a female client of these options may constitute legal malpractice.

Far from being punished for child-snatching and false accusations, then, she is almost certain to be rewarded. Mothers who abduct children and keep them from their fathers, with or without abuse charges, are routinely given immediate “temporary” custody. But it is almost never “temporary.” Once a mother has custody, it cannot be changed without a lengthy (and, for the lawyers involved, lucrative) court battle. The sooner and the longer she can establish herself as the sole caretaker, the more difficult and costly it is to dislodge her. Further, the more she cuts the children off and alienates them from the father, slings false charges, delays the proceedings, and obstructs his efforts to see his children, the better her chance for obtaining sole custody. She can then claim child support and perhaps her own legal fees from the father.

In the absence of paternal wrongdoing, the Kafkaesque logic of family courts readily supplies a rationale for summarily stripping the father of custody.

Usually it is said that the parents “can’t agree,” so naturally the parent who is trying to exclude the other should get the children and make the decisions, even if the only thing the left-behind parent can’t agree to is the taking of his children. Or the father is alleged to be planning to “kidnap” his children back–usually with no evidence other than his opposition to the initial abduction by the mother.

As for the father, any restraint he shows throughout all this is certain to cost him dearly, as most discover too late. On the other hand, reciprocal belligerence and aggressive litigation on his part may carry enough hope of reward to keep him interested in the game. But the vast majority (about 90 percent who cannot pay the five-and six-figure sums required to fight a full-scale custody battle are branded as having “abandoned” their children and simply pushed out of the family.

Some fathers’ rights activists are now determined to fight fire with fire, and imitate the techniques of mothers: If you think she is about to snatch, snatch first. Then conceal, obstruct, delay, accuse, and so forth. “If you do not take action,” writes Robert Seidenberg, author of The Father’s Emergency Guide to Divorce-Custody Battle, “your wife will.” Thus we now have the nightmare scenario of a race to the trigger: Whomever snatches first survives.

For the left-behind parent, the loss of his children is only the beginning of his troubles. It may also be the beginning of ours as well, for the legal and political implications of these decisions extend well beyond the family. Other violations of basic civil rights and liberties logically follow when courts successfully asserted the power to invade a family remove children from the care of parents who have done no wrong.

Despite the protection of the First Amendment, family courts may decide what religious worship parents may take their children to: The 1997 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court preventing a fundamental Christian father from taking his children to services against the opposition of the Orthodox Jewish mother was unusual only in that it made the papers. A judge in Virginia sparked a protest, but little news coverage, last year when he enjoined a father from taking his son to synagogue on Passover.

Parents’ discussions with their children about matters such as religion and politics may also be controlled by family court judges. Tom’s court order preventing him from discussing a vegetarian diet with his children is not unusual. Another father in the group had weekend visits with his children reduced when a judge decided that soccer was a more important Sunday activity than church.

The Fourth Amendment’s protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures” similarly seems to mean little to family court judges. Parents who are accused of no crime and who have given no grounds or agreement for divorce are routinely required to surrender personal diaries, notebooks, correspondence, financial records, and other documents–all ostensibly to determine their fitness as parents, even when it has never been questioned.

They are regularly interrogated behind closed doors about intimate family matters that most parents would not normally discuss with strangers. If the strains of losing their children or undergoing this legal nightmare are too great, they are wise to conceal any contact with therapists, family counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, since these otherwise privileged consultations and records can be subpoenaed and used to separate them from their children. Parents swept into this litigation are terrified to discuss anything with their children or spouses for fear that what they say will be used against them in court. The use of children as informers is common.

As well, a custody trial will likely be held behind closed doors and without any record of what is said, free of scrutiny by press and public. Delays of months and years are common, as the parent with “temporary” custody tries to stall. Since custody cases are not criminal prosecutions, they do not fall under the protections of the Sixth Amendment, but given other abuses they often amount to the same thing, being the first stage in the criminalization and incarceration of fathers.

Indeed, while the same article stipulates a right to counsel in criminal cases, fathers can be jailed without a lawyer. One of the most notorious and common abuses in family courts is the incarceration of fathers for extended periods without charge and without trial. The guarantee of “due process” does not prevent family courts from jailing parents on civil contempt for weeks, months, or even years without trial.

The notorious Elizabeth Morgan case in which a mother abducted her child and, for refusing to reveal her whereabouts, spent two years in prison for civil contempt, was publicized only because it involved a mother. Much more common instances of fathers languishing in prison for years seldom receive any publicity. Buried as a filler in the Washington Post last January was an Associated Press report that Odell Sheppard, a father in Chicago who also would not or could not reveal the whereabouts of his 2-year-old daughter, was released after serving ten years for civil contempt. Despite what “may have been the longest jail term for civil contempt ever in the United States,” the case seems to have prompted no comment in either the local or national press or among civil libertarians.

Courts routinely order fathers whose children have been taken from them involuntarily and with no grounds to support those children financially. They can and do summon fathers to court so frequently that they lose their jobs and then incarcerate them for failure to pay child support. Courts these days will even order men to support children whom are acknowledged not to be theirs. In 1994 Maryland court of appeals refused to rescind a child support order against a man who, according to DNA tests, could not possibly have been the father of the child he was ordered to support. This was despite the fact that the mother and the true father joined the falsely accused man in requesting the order be changed. An October series in the Los Angeles Times reported that in Los Angeles alone there are 350 new cases each month of men required to support children who are established by DNA testing not to be theirs. Yet the Los Angeles County District Attorney has insisted that he had no intention of seeking to overturn support orders based on false identifications.

The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment” does not stop family courts from summarily depriving fathers of professional licenses, drivers’ licenses, and passports that bear no connection with their alleged offence. Fathers who are alleged (but again not formally charged and never proven) to be delinquent in child support payments have had their cars booted and confiscated and their names published in the newspapers.

Fathers are also ordered by courts into employment, the wages from which are then confiscated. Last February the California Supreme Court overturned 100 years of precedent when it ruled in the case of Moss v. Superior Court that this is not contrary to the Thirteenth Amendment prohibition on involuntary servitude. In the past the Supreme Court has recognized that “Congress has put it beyond debate that no indebtedness warrants a suspension of the right to be free from compulsory service. This congressional policy means that no state can make the quitting of work any component of a crime, or make criminal sanctions available for holding unwilling persons to labor.” Yet states now routinely do precisely this.

In April 1998, a custodial father in Illinois who stayed at home to care for his three children and who received no child support from the mother was arrested under “a little known state law that makes it a felony for a man to be ‘deliberately unemployed.'” “Men in Illinois have become the target of a witch hunt,” the man’s attorney told Reuters. “Men are hounded if they owe child support and Mom is on welfare. Now Mom is the deadbeat parent, and the man is hounded because he is on welfare.”

As for the children, courts that piously proclaim their commitment to “the best interest of the child” seldom hesitate to employ heavy-handed methods against them as well. To take only a recent, documented example, in April the Los Angeles Times reported that “three children, whose only crime was their reluctance to testify against their father, were jailed for 12 days in Los Angeles County’s overcrowded Central Juvenile Hall and brought to court in handcuffs and leg chains.”

For their part, a few fathers’ groups have countered by filing federal class action suits claiming abrogation of civil rights “under color of law”, including denial of due process and equal protection. Violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Amendments are also alleged, and some go so far as to invoke anti-racketeering statutes. There is a substantial body of federal case law recognizing parenting as a basic constitutional right and requiring its protection under the Fourteenth Amendment: “The liberty interest and the integrity of the family encompass an interest in retaining custody of one’s children, and thus a state may not interfere with a parent’s custodial right absent due process protections,” according to the 1981 decision, Langton v. Maloney. Justice Thurgood Marshall also held for the majority in the 1978 case Quilloin v. Walcott that a divorced father could not be treated differently from a father who is married and still living with his child. Yet such apparently unequivocal constitutional principles are almost never applied by state courts, and the federal courts steadfastly resist becoming involved.

As it is, some twenty-three million American children now live in fatherless households, virtually half a generation. Nearly 2.5 million will join their ranks this year, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative. The crisis of fatherless children has been called “the most destructive trend of our generation” by David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America. Even Bill Clinton acknowledges that “the single biggest social problem in our society may be the growing absence of fathers from their children’s homes,” and AlGore has declared in more accusatory terms that “absent fathers are behind most social woes.” This opinion is shared by almost 80 percent of respondents to a 1996 Gallup poll.

Indeed, nothing else accounts for as many major social problems. Recent figures from the Department of Health and Human Services confirm that violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, emotional and behavioral disorders, teen suicide, poor school performance and truancy all correlate more strongly to fatherless homes than to any other single factor, surpassing both poverty and race. The overwhelming majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists all come from fatherless homes.

The Washington Post, New York Times, and other major media bent over backwards to avoid mentioning that Mitchell Johnson, instigator of the shootings in Jonesboro, Arkansas, had been taken from his father, whom he was said to be close to, and moved to another state. Even as the crisis of fatherhood gains selective recognition by policymakers and the media, however, attention is confined almost entirely to “the prodigal father” who has “abandoned” his children. Fathers now get it from both sides, since the conservative campaign for “responsible fatherhood” may unwittingly reinforce the vilification of fathers in the media and by politicians and feminists.

The resulting message is that until proven otherwise, fathers are presumed to be irresponsible louts whose eagerness to desert their families accounts for all our social failures. Yet Sanford L. Braver, in his recently published book, Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths, shows that far from abandoning their children, most divorced fathers make heroic efforts against enormous obstacles to stay in touch with them.

Scapegoating fathers has predictably done little to alleviate any of the problems associated with father absence. Indeed, it cannot even solve the one problem in terms of which politicians most often proclaim their commitment to father “involvement”: the collection of child support. With a massive army of some 59,000 enforcement agents (the Drug Enforcement Administration has about 7,500), the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement perseveres in its losing battle to squeeze money out of ejected fathers who more often than not are either unemployed, impoverished, imprisoned, disabled, or dead. The General Accounting Office found in 1992 that as many as 14 percent of fathers who owe child support are dead, and 66 percent “cannot afford to pay the amount ordered.” Some 52 percent earn less than $6,200 a year, according to the Poverty Studies Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

Far more useful than trying to shake down fathers with no money would be to reform a legal system that forces so many fathers out of their children’s lives in the first place. But in addition to wives and the judiciary, fathers must also contend with feminist groups, who loom as the most formidable opponents of joint custody laws and are now promoting legislation that would openly legitimate the current epidemic of maternal child snatching. The purported justification is domestic violence. An article posted on the NOW web site asserts that preserving fathers’ rights to the care and protection of their children “is dangerous for women and their children who are trying to leave or have left violent husbands/fathers.”

This of course begs the question of why children can be taken virtually at whim from the vast majority of fathers by whom no violence is ever demonstrated or even alleged, nor why it should be any more dangerous trying to leave truly abusive spouses who can be prosecuted under existing laws and who are precluded from custody under presumptive joint custody statutes. Yet in the present climate such obvious questions are seldom asked.

So successful is anti-father propaganda now that even mainstream feminist organizations regularly use the term “batterer” as essentially synonymous with “father.” In political terms, a NOW resolution asserts that the political activities of fathers’ groups constitute “using the abuse of power in order to control in the same fashion as do batterers.”

Both domestic violence and child abuse are serious problems, but they are by no means sex-specific. Moreover, accusations of child or spousal abuse are a widespread method of winning sole custody. NOW claims that “false accusations by women are in fact rare” (and opposes penalties for making them), but saying this does not make it so. Statistically they are not rare at all. Overall, more than two-thirds of child abuse reports are unsubstantiated, according to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, and the proportion becomes overwhelming when custody is an issue. But more tellingly, NOW itself would seem to be proving just how false they are with its own legislative agenda. By legitimizing child stealing under the guise of protecting victims of domestic violence, NOW is openly practicing on the political level precisely what it claims is not happening in the family courts: the use of “battering” as a red flag to separate children from fathers who are guilty of no such thing.

There is no evidence that fathers commit any more spousal or child abuse than mothers; in fact fathers in intact families are about the least frequent perpetrators of either. The National Family Violence Survey, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and developed by Murray Straus and Richard Gelles, estimates that men are slightly more likely than women to be victims of severe domestic violence. Nor can “the high rate of attacks by wives” be explained “largely as a response to or as a defense against assault by the partner,” according to one of the survey’s authors, Murray Straus, in a contribution to the 1996 book Domestic Violence.

More to the point, mothers–especially single mothers–are much more likely than fathers to abuse children. According to a major 1996 study by the Department of Health and Human Services, women aged twenty to forty-nine areal most twice as likely as men to be perpetrators of child maltreatment. “It is estimated that…almost two-thirds [of child abusers] were females,” the report states. Given that “male” perpetrators are not necessarily fathers but much more likely to be boyfriends and stepfathers, fathers emerge as the least likely child abusers.

In fact, about the most dangerous place for a child then is the home of a single mother. The HHS study reiterates the already well-established fact that children in single-parent homes are at much higher risk for physical and sexual abuse than those living in two-parent homes (up to thirty-three times higher when a live-in boyfriend or stepfather is present). As Maggie Gallagher sums it up in her 1996 book The Abolition of Marriage: “The person most likely to abuse a child physically is a single mother. The person most likely to abuse a child sexually is the mother’s boyfriend or second husband…. Divorce, though usually portrayed as a protection against domestic violence, is far more frequently a contributing cause.”

At one time this may have been considered common sense, since two parents check one another’s excesses and the father was seen as the children’s natural protector. Not only has this role now become politically incorrect; the current system has managed to pervert it into a fault. What “male violence” does occur may well be the result of custody disputes more often than it is the cause, after all, since common sense would again suggest that fathers with no previous proclivity to violence could very well erupt when their children are arbitrarily taken from them. One is tempted to say this is what fathers are for: to become violent when someone interferes with their offspring. A 1997 study by Anne McMurray of the Griffith University School of Nursing in Australia that began with the express purpose to “provide definitive explanations for the violent behaviors of certain males,” concluded that “regardless of the male’s propensity toward violence” the circumstances most conducive to it arose “during the process of marital separation and divorce, particularly in relation to disputes over child custody, support, and access.”

“These men,” McMurray continues, “from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and age groups, freely discussed episodes in which they had either planned, executed, or fantasized about violence against their spouses in retaliation for real or perceived injustices related to child custody, support, and/or access.”

Interestingly, while violence against wives is well publicized, the huge increase in violent attacks by fathers against judges and lawyers has gone completely unreported in the mainstream press. According to an article in the National Law Journal the year 1992 was “one of the bloodiest in divorce court history–a time when angry and bitter divorce litigants declared an open season on judges, lawyers, and the spouses who brought them to court.”

NOW and others further attempt to defend the power to take children from their fathers by invoking popular but facile cliches about marital harmony, saying that “most studies report that joint custody works best when both parents want it and agree to work together” but that it “is unworkable for uncooperative parents.” This tautological reasoning is of course simply an extension of assumptions that have long been invoked by parents of both sexes as self-justification for their wish to divorce. As such, fathers who have acquiesced in this casuistry have only themselves to blame now that it is being taken to its logical next step to justify rewarding the most belligerent of the “warring parents” and throwing the other out of the family altogether. After all, if an intact family or joint custody requires “agreement” and “cooperation” between parents, the most effective method for the parent who expects sole custody to sabotage either is to be as belligerent and uncooperative as possible.

In fact joint custody has repeatedly been demonstrated to reduce parental conflict for precisely this reason. A study by Judith Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin based on data from the National Survey of Families and Households concluded that joint custody, even when imposed over the objection of one parent, reduces post-divorce conflict. Similarly, a study team headed by Braver found that “both child support compliance and paternal visitation were highest in those cases where joint custody was awarded against the mothers’ wishes but in conformity with the fathers’ wishes.” The author concludes that these results demonstrate “the value of joint legal custody even when the couple does not initially agree to it. Joint custody appears to enhance paternal involvement, child support compliance, and child adjustment.” Perhaps most important, it takes away much of the incentive to snatch the children in the first place. (Giving sole custody to the left-behind parent, as some have proposed, would naturally create a stronger deterrent.) For similar reasons, states with presumptive joint custody laws report significantly fewer divorces.

As for the connected tautology that that parental conflict in itself justifies divorce, this is seldom justified as far as children are concerned, as any child will tell you. Children…can be quite content even when their parents’ marriage is profoundly unhappy for one or both partners,” write Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee in their 1996 book, Second Chances. “Only one in ten children in our study experienced relief when their parents divorced. These were mostly older children in families where there had been open violence and where the children had lived with the fear that the violence would hurt a parent or themselves.”

Specious justifications for a system that spawns massive corruption, violates basic constitutional rights, destroys the homes and lives of innocent children, and leads to serious social ills thus carry the day because of our willingness to buy into cliches that disguise the reality and extent of what is taking place. We have sanitized a breathtaking injustice with buzzwords such as “divorce” and “custody battle” that imply mutual consent, when in most cases no such thing exists. Yet however palatable we try to render this abuse, there is no escaping the central fact that it has very little to do with the needs of children and everything to do with the power of certain groups of adults. But we either maintain a distinction between what is actionable in a court of law and what is not, or we simply haul people into court because we don’t like their methods of child-rearing or, for that matter, because of our wish for a new boyfriend. Frightening as it may seem, using the courts and police to punish spouses for what may be nothing more than ordinary family disagreements now seems to be accepted without question, and the bottom line is that any father may now find himself pursued by federal agents because he protests the way his children have been taken from him.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published at theamericanconservative.com on September 25, 2009.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

ideologies

Politicizing Potiphar’s Wife: Today’s New Ideology

Read below Stephen Baskerville’s lecture that motivated a furious attack led by feminist and homosexual activists, an international petition in defense of Stephen Basrkerville, and a press release that tells the whole story.

 

Stephen Baskerville

Stephen Baskerville

Stephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This lecture was originally delivered at Patrick Henry College on September 13, 2013.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

o-PARENTS-DIVORCE-facebook

Divorce as Revolution

For some thirty years now a quiet revolution has been waged throughout the Western world. Most people are now familiar with the social consequences of the divorce explosion: the growth of single-parent homes and massive increase in fatherless children. The Pandora’s box of social problems this has released has also reached general awareness. Virtually every major personal and social pathology can be traced to fatherlessness more than to any other single factor: violent crime, substance abuse, unwed pregnancy, truancy, suicide, and more. Fatherlessness far surpasses both poverty and race as a predictor of social deviance.

These problems are alarming enough in themselves. What is seldom appreciated is that they are also responsible for a vast expansion in the power and reach of the state. In fact, so is divorce itself. In contrast to its social fallout, the political consequences of divorce are hardly understood at all, yet they may ultimately be the most destructive.

The result of three decades of unrestrained divorce is that huge numbers of people – many of them government officials – now have a vested professional and financial interest in encouraging it. Divorce today is not simply a phenomenon; it is a regime – a vast bureaucratic empire that permeates national and local governments, with hangers-on in the private sector. In the United States divorce and custody comprise over half of civil litigation, constituting the cash cow of the judiciary and bringing employment and earnings to a host of public and private officials, including judges, lawyers, psychotherapists, mediators, counsellors, social workers, child support enforcement agents, and others.

This growth industry derives from the impact of divorce on children. The divorce revolution has spawned a public-private industrial complex of legal, social service, and psychotherapeutic professionals devoted to the problems of children, and especially children in single-parent homes. Many are women with feminist leanings. Whatever pieties they may voice about the plight of fatherless, poor, and violent children, the fact remains that these practitioners have a vested interest in creating as many such children as possible. The way to do it is to remove the fathers.

It is commonplace today that fathers are disadvantaged in divorce courts everywhere when it comes to child custody. In today’s political jargon we attribute this to ‘discrimination’ and ‘gender bias’. But this does not convey the half of it. Divorce courts and their huge entourage of personnel depend for their existence on broken, single-parent homes. The first principle of family court is therefore: remove the father. So long as fathers remain with their families, the divorce practitioners earn nothing. This is why the first thing a family court does when it summons a father on a divorce petition – even if he has done nothing wrong and not agreed to the divorce – is to strip him of custody of his children. While mothers also fall afoul of divorce courts, fathers are their principal rivals.

Once the father is eliminated, the state functionally replaces him as protector and provider. By removing the father, the state also creates a host of problems for itself to solve: child poverty, child abuse, juvenile crime, and other problems associated with single-parent homes. In this way, the divorce machinery is self-perpetuating and self-expanding. Involuntary divorce is a marvelous tool that allows for the infinite expansion of government power.

No-fault divorce is the middle-class equivalent of public assistance, creating single-parent homes among the affluent as welfare did among the poor. In the United States, where the trend began, all the major institutions of the divorce industry were originally created as ancillary to welfare: juvenile/family courts, child support enforcement, child protection services. No-fault divorce extended these ‘services’ to the middle class because that was where the money was, and with it political power.

Like welfare, divorce involving children is almost wholly female-driven. Though governments invariably claim that fathers ‘abandon’ their children, there is no evidence this is true, nor even that fathers agree to most divorces. Cautious scholars like Sanford Braver of Arizona State University consistently find that at least two-thirds of divorces are filed by women, usually with no legal grounds. Yet lawyers and feminists report much higher proportions. Shere Hite, the popular researcher on female sexuality, found ‘ninety-one percent of women who have divorced say they made the decision to divorce, not their husbands.’

This is hardly surprising, given the almost irresistible emotional and financial incentives the industry offers mothers to divorce, including automatic custody plus windfall child support and other financial rewards, regardless of any fault on their part. A Canadian/American research team found that ‘who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce.’ What we call ‘divorce’ has in effect become a kind of legalised parental kidnapping.

Once the father loses custody, he becomes in many ways an outlaw and subject to plunder by a variety of officials. His contact with his own children becomes criminalised in that he can be arrested if he tries to see them outside of authorised times and places. Unlike anyone else, he can be arrested for running into his children in a public place such as the zoo or church. In the United States fathers are arrested for telephoning their children when they are not authorised or for sending them birthday cards. Fathers are routinely summoned to court and subjected to questioning about their private lives. Their personal papers, bank accounts, and homes must be opened and surrendered to government officials. Anything a father has said to his spouse or children can be used against him in court. His personal habits, movements, conversations, purchases, and his relationship with his own children are all subject to inquiry and control by the court.

Despite prohibitions on incarceration for debt, a father can be jailed without trial for failure to pay not only child support but the fees of lawyers and psychotherapists he has not hired. A judge can summon a legally unimpeachable citizen who is minding his own business and order him to turn over his earnings or go to jail.

As the logic of involuntary divorce plays itself out, divorce is forced on not only one parent but both. Mothers are not only enticed into divorce with financial incentives, in other words; they are being pressured into it by threats against their children. Last year, Heidi Howard was ordered by the Massachusetts Department of Social Services to divorce her husband or lose her children, although authorities acknowledged neither parent had been violent. When she refused, the social workers seized her children and attempted to terminate the couple’s parental rights. Massachusetts News reporter Nev Moore says such cases are common in Massachusetts.

Family law is now criminalising rights as basic as free speech and freedom of the press. In many jurisdictions it is a crime to criticise family court judges or otherwise discuss family law cases publicly. Under the pretext of ‘family privacy’, parents are gagged from publicly disclosing how government officials have seized control of their children. In Australia it is a crime for a litigant to speak publicly concerning family courts, even without mentioning specific cases.

In Australia, the US, and Britain, family courts have closed web sites operated by fathers’ groups. Britain, Australia, and Canada have all resurrected archaic laws prohibiting the criticism of judges in order to prosecute fathers’ groups. In the United States judges cannot be sued, but they can sue citizens who criticise them. The confiscation of property can also be used to criminalise political opinions. Following his testimony to the US Congress critical of the family courts, Jim Wagner of the Georgia Council for Children’s Rights was stripped of custody of his two children and ordered to pay $6,000 in the fees of attorneys he had not hired. When he could not pay, he was arrested.

The swelling hysteria over ‘domestic violence’ appears fomented largely for similar ends. ‘All of this domestic violence industry is about trying to take children away from their fathers,’ writes Irish Times columnist John Waters. ‘When they’ve taken away the fathers, they’ll take away the mothers.’ Donna Laframboise of Canada’s National Post investigated battered women’s shelters and concluded they constituted ‘one stop divorce shops’, whose purpose was not to protect women but to promote divorce. These shelters, often federally funded, issue affidavits against fathers sight-unseen that are accepted without corroborating evidence by judges to justify removing their children. Special domestic violence courts in Canada can now remove fathers from their homes and seize their houses on a mere allegation of domestic violence.

Divorce, not violence, is also behind the explosion of restraining orders, which are routinely issued without evidence of wrongdoing, separating fathers from their children and homes. Almost 90% of judicial magistrates in New South Wales acknowledged that protective orders were used in divorce – often on the advice of a solicitor – to deprive fathers of access to their children. Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association, writes that restraining orders are doled out ‘like candy.’ ‘Everyone knows that restraining orders and orders to vacate are granted to virtually all who apply,’ and ‘the facts have become irrelevant,’ she reports.

Fathers are further criminalised through child-support burdens, which constitute the financial fuel of the divorce machinery, underwriting unilateral divorce and giving everyone involved further incentives to remove children from their fathers. Government claims of unpaid child support constitute one of the most dishonest and destructive hoaxes ever foisted on the public. In a US government-funded study, Sanford Braver discovered that most fathers pay fully and on time and that ‘estimated’ arrearages are derived not from official records but from surveys of mothers. Braver’s findings have never been refuted by any official or scholar. Yet ever-more draconian ‘crackdowns’ and arrests continue.

Last summer Liberty magazine published documentary evidence that ‘deadbeat dads’ are largely the creation of civil servants and law-enforcement agents with an interest in giving themselves criminals to prosecute. In most jurisdictions, child support guidelines are set by enforcement personnel, the equivalent of the police making the laws. These officials can separate children from their fathers, impose impossible child support obligations, and then jail fathers who inevitably fail to pay.

Child support trials operate on a presumption of guilt, where ‘the burden of proof may be shifted to the defendant,’ according to the US National Conference of State Legislatures, which favours aggressive prosecutions. Contrary to Common Law and the US Constitution, courts have ruled that ‘not all child-support contempt proceedings classified as criminal are entitled to a jury trial,’ and ‘even indigent obligors are not necessarily entitled to a lawyer.’ Thus impoverished parents who lose their children through literally ‘no fault’ of their own are the only defendants who must prove their innocence without counsel and without a jury of their peers.

Cases like Darrin White of British Columbia are the result. With no evidence of wrongdoing, White was denied all contact with his children, evicted from his home, and ordered to pay more than twice his income as child and spousal support, plus court costs for a divorce he never agreed to. White hanged himself from a tree. ‘There is nothing unusual about this judgement,’ said a British Columbia Supreme Court Judge, who pointed out that the judge applied standard support guidelines.

Fathers driven to suicide by family courts are acknowledged by officials in Canada, Australia, and Britain. A suicide epidemic has been documented by Augustine Kposowa of the University of California in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Kposowa attributes his finding directly to family court judgements, though media reports of his study emphasised fathers’ lack of ‘support networks’.

Why is so little opposition heard? Though the conservative media are waking up, the silence of conservative politicians is deafening, given that every prophecy about the dangers of judicial activism, bureaucratic aggrandizement, and ideological extremism is vindicated in the war on fathers. What is perhaps most diabolical about the divorce industry is its ability to co-opt so many people, including its critics. By creating problems to be solved – and then dispensing government money to solve them – the machine gives everyone an interest in fatherless children. Even critics develop a stake in having something to criticise.

In Canada and the US, domestic violence legislation dispenses a gravy train of federal money to the states/provinces and localities. This is often earmarked with appeals to ‘law enforcement’, though the effect is to divert it from the prosecution of criminals to the prosecution of fathers. Likewise, child support enforcement is propelled by federal payments rewarding local governments for each dollar collected, filling local coffers and giving officials an incentive to squeeze revenue from (after they have forced divorce on) as many fathers as they can find.

Especially questionable are government enterprises to ‘promote fatherhood’, which disperse grants to local governments and organizations ostensibly to ‘reunite fathers with their children’. Yet they are premised on first separating them from one another. What is advertised as a program to facilitate ‘access and visitation’ means supervised contact centers, where fathers must pay to see their children in institutions. ‘Encouraging good fathering’ means state-sponsored television advertisements with actors depicting fathers abandoning their children. One American state receives federal money to implement ‘Five Principles of Fatherhood’, including: ‘give affection to my children’ and ‘demonstrate respect at all times to the mother of my children’. One cannot help but wonder what penalties the state will bring to bear on fathers who fail to show sufficient ‘affection’ and ‘respect’.

Involuntary divorce is the instrument not simply of tyrannical judges, unscrupulous lawyers, and doctrinaire feminists, but of a new political class whose interest is to subject the private corners of life to state control. Two conservative scholars recently argued in the Journal of Political Economy that the vast expansion of governmental machinery during the twentieth century proceeded largely from women acquiring the vote. Women, far more than men, voted to create the welfare state. But: ‘Why would men and women have differing political interests?’ ask John Lott and Larry Kenny. ‘If there were no divorces . . . the interests of men and women would appear to be closely linked together.’ The premise of their question invites the answer: ‘As divorce or desertion rates rise, more women will be saddled with the costs of raising the children.’ Conservatives have accepted the feminist argument that the arm of the state is a necessary defensive shield to protect women from the costs of divorce, attributed to male desertion. But male desertion is not a major cause of divorce. The welfare state and expansive government therefore are not defenses against divorce but preconditions for it. Divorce is a political weapon and an offensive one at that, promoted by the same bureaucratic and ideological interests that are undermining and politicising fatherhood and expanding the power and reach of the state to deal with the consequences.

What then can check the march of the unilateral divorce machine?

One theme of intellectuals who dissented from the ideological-bureaucratic dictatorships of eastern Europe was ‘nonpolitical politics’: to oppose ideology not with contrary ideology but with non-ideology, to resist politicisation by re-creating the ordinary business of ‘civil society’ and private life. If any group should adopt this philosophy today, it is fathers. For all the effort to ‘restore fatherhood’ through programs like Fathers Direct, ultimately the only ones who can restore fatherhood are, of course, fathers themselves. Almost by definition, fathers alone can truly ‘save the children’ by re-creating the family with themselves in it.

In so doing, fathers may also hold the potential to start redeeming a political culture that for thirty years has been sinking into the mire of permanent rebellion. Their current plight indicates how far the divorce ‘revolution’ has brought us all into a brave new quasi-Freudian world where not only traditional institutions are attacked and brought low, but so now are private individuals, simply because they hold the most basic position of human authority, the head of a family. Whether they are up to the challenge remains to be seen.

 

Stephen Baskerville

Stephen Baskerville

Stephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published at newswithviews.com on July 22, 2004.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

gavelrings

Married to the State

In 1947, with the baby boom in its infancy and few disposed to hearing of family crisis, Harvard sociologist Carle Zimmerman saw the long-term reality: the family had been deteriorating since the Renaissance and was nearing the point of no return. Whenever the family shows signs of dysfunction, Zimmerman observed, “the state helps to break it up.” During the 19th century, “law piled on law, and government agency upon government agency” until by 1900 “the state had become master of the family.” The result, he wrote in Family and Civilization, was that “the family is now truly the agent, the slave, the handmaiden of the state.”

Today we might regard 1947 as a golden age for the family. Without perceiving it, each generation has become acculturated to family deterioration and added to it. We now accept as normal what would have shocked our grandparents: cohabitation, illegitimacy, divorce, same-sex marriage, daycare, fast-food dinners. Indeed, shocking the previous generation is part of the thrill of filial rebellion.

What should shock even the liberal and the young—but today does not much disturb even the conservative and the old—are destruction of constitutional protections and invasions of personal freedom and privacy by the government’s family machinery. Some four decades ago, the Western world embarked on the boldest social experiment in its history. With no public discussion, laws were enacted in virtually every jurisdiction that ended marriage as an enforceable contract. Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.

Few stopped to consider the implications of laws that shifted the breakup of private households from a voluntary to an involuntary process. Unilateral divorce involves government agents forcibly removing legally innocent people from their homes and seizing their property. It inherently abrogates not only the inviolability of marriage but the very concept of private life.

The most serious consequences involve children. Through involuntary divorce, a legally unimpeachable parent can be arrested for seeing his own children without government authorization. He can be charged with domestic violence or child abuse, without evidence that he has committed either crime. He can be hauled before a judge for not paying child support without proof that he actually owes it. He can even be arrested for not paying an attorney or psychotherapist whom he has not hired. No formal charge, no jury, no trial required.

To justify this repression, the divorce machinery has generated hysterias against fathers so inflammatory that few dare question them: child abuse, wife-beating, nonpayment of child support. The accused parent simply loses his family and finds himself abandoned, with everyone terrified to be associated with an accused “pedophile,” “batterer,” or “deadbeat dad.”

Our passivity before repression this serious is stunning and the starkest example yet of the erosion of that civic virtue that has been integral to American political thought since before the founding of the Republic.

Conservatives have labored this idea into a cliché. We preach that people must be more virtuous, less selfish, and more devoted to the public good. But these exhortations earn us nothing but contempt when we remain silent in the face of real tyranny, which, as usual, has appeared where we least expected it and are least equipped to resist it. Instead of resisting, we lament a decline in “culture” and declare there is very little we can do.

But as Linda McClain writes, families are “seedbeds of civic virtue” and “have a place in the project of forming persons into capable, responsible, self-governing citizens.” The family is where parents and children learn to love sacrificially, to put others’ needs before their own desires, to sacrifice for the welfare and protection of the whole. If this does not begin with one’s own home and loved ones it, does not begin at all. People unwilling to sacrifice for their own flesh and blood will not do so for the strangers who comprise their country. In the family, children learn to obey authorities other than the state—God, parents, clergy, teachers, coaches, neighbors. By accepting these, some of whom they love, children learn that government is not the only authority and is one that can and must be limited.

Conservatives have recently been eager to declare marriage and the family to be “public” institutions, largely in response to homosexual insistence that families are purely private and therefore may be defined according to the whims of individuals. But it is more precise to say that the family mediates between the public and the private, ensuring each its proper sphere. In the family children learn to distinguish and defend private life from encroachment by public power. Involvement in public affairs, which is important, begins as an extension of private responsibilities as parents, homeowners, neighbors, and parishioners. Citizens participate in public life as amateurs with a stake in their families, homes, and communities, not as professionals with a stake in a government program or ideology.

Children raised without intact families do not as readily absorb concepts such as family privacy, sacrificial love, parental authority, limited government, or civic virtue. For their rules and values come not from parents but from government officials, who have ultimate sovereignty over their lives: courts, lawyers, social workers, forensic therapists, public-school bureaucrats, and police. These are the figures they must obey rather than their parents. Thus children whose authority figures are government officials cannot distinguish the private from the public and come to see the public sphere as a realm not of civic duty and community leadership but of abstract ideology, government funding, professional employment, career advancement, and state power, in whose growth they acquire a vested interest.

It is no accident that the traditional family is described as patriarchal and that civic virtue traditionally suggested masculinity. It is also no coincidence that fathers are the ones marginalized by family decline.

Enormous attention has been devoted to the crisis of 24 million fatherless children, a phenomenon directly linked to every major social pathology from violent crime to substance abuse and truancy. Because these ills justify almost all domestic government spending, fatherlessness has resulted in a huge expansion of state power. The Obama administration aims to promote virtue with programs preaching “responsible fatherhood” and nagging men to practice “good fathering.” The Bush administration used similar schemes to argue for the importance of marriage. The result is the same: bewailing other people’s moral failings at taxpayer expense.

There is certainly truth in the connection between fatherhood and civil society. “Fathers play a key role in developing and sustaining the kind of personal character on which democracy depends,” writes Don Eberly of the National Fatherhood Initiative. Government therapy, on the other hand, cannot create virtue because it requires no sacrifice. Federal funding only gives officials incentives to perpetuate problems, so it is hardly surprising that not only have these programs done nothing to improve either fatherhood or marriage, they have exacerbated the breakdown of both.

Eberly’s point connecting fathers and freedom contains a larger truth. While families require sacrifice from all members, it is fathers whose sacrifice may extend to their very lives. Children deprived of their fathers by state officials therefore lose more than a parent. They lose the parent who connects them with the civic order. When the father protects and provides for his family, he will resist the state’s efforts to assume those roles. Under his leadership, the family is a force for limiting state power.

The single mother does not resist the state’s encroachment. On the contrary, she is our society’s principal claimant on a vast array of state services, without which she cannot manage her children. When the state usurps the roles of protector and provider and disciplinarian, the state becomes the father.

This is the story of modern politics: increasingly centralized police, plus the regulatory and welfare states that also promise various forms of protection. These paternal—and increasingly maternal—substitutes brought massive bureaucracies, fulfilling Tocqueville’s prophecy that democracy would lead to increasingly bureaucratic intrusion into private life. These agencies expanded by creating problems to solve. As police functionaries, they had to create criminals and newfangled, nonviolent crimes that most people (such as juries) could not understand and required “experts” to adjudicate—crimes that were safe for female police, crimes that could be committed only by men.

Fathers whose children are taken away by state officials do not heroically rescue them or organize opposition to the divorce machinery because the enervating power of the bureaucratic behemoth makes resistance pointless. Men are thus politically neutered and, as a result, often despised by their own children and the rest of us.

That most people do not regard these practices as tyrannical may be the most alarming aspect of all. Government agents seize control of children and property of vast numbers of law-abiding citizens through literally “no fault” of their own, and we accept it because of jargon that makes it all appear banal: “custody battle” and “division of property.” Fidelity to one’s word—let alone one’s spouse—is disdained. Basic civilities become irrelevant because family members can be made to obey through court orders. Family wealth—traditionally used to leverage both obedience from children and limits on government—is useless for both purposes. In divorce it is simply confiscated.

So vast numbers of children now grow up believing from the earliest age that it is normal for government officials to assume control over their family life, to order their parents about as if they were naughty children. This is causing more than social chaos. It is destroying our freedom and our will to defend it.

 

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published at theamericanconservative.com on September 25, 2009.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

nochristians

The Destructive Fruits of Sexual Politics

It may be no accident that Dale McAlpine, the Christian arrested for street preaching in England, was nabbed for his views on homosexuality. As Melanie Phillips points out in the Daily Mail, the preponderance of cases in what she calls Britain’s “attempt to stamp out Christianity” involve homosexuality.

This is also true in the U.S. and elsewhere as Christians find their beliefs proscribed once they criticize homosexuality. “This is in contrast to other contentious issues such as abortion, where the law specifically provides exemptions for conscience,” Phillips writes.

Clichés about “inequality,” “discrimination” and other agitprop jargon borrowed largely from the American civil-rights era disguise a much deeper development. The sexualization of politics (and the politicization of sex) is the most important – and least scrutinized – political development since the 1960s. In 40 years, the political Left has transformed itself from a socialistic campaign against property and enterprise into a sexual attack on the family, marriage and masculinity.

The sexual agenda is more than a simple request for “equality” (for feminists) or to be left alone (for homosexuals). It is an ideology with no precise limits demanding an open-ended sexual “liberation” that quickly expands into demands to exercise government power over others. As Burke observed, “Liberty, when men act in bodies, is power.”

Because this power covers what was once considered private life, the potential for intrusion is also unlimited. The words “power” or “empowerment” are now ubiquitous in feminist and gay literature, describing a control over other people’s private lives as well as public policy. Voices of restraint like gay campaigner Peter Tatchell, who criticized McAlpine’s arrest, do not change the larger reality.

Like other ideologies only more so, the danger may be seen in the absence of dissent. More than any other, sexual politics neuters, literally emasculates, its opposition. Feminist and gay politics contain a hostility toward heterosexual masculinity that is increasingly shared by the mainstream culture.

But no free society can exist without masculinity. Masculine strength is the only counterweight to the power of the state.

A free society needs people who are required to show courage, risk their lives and sacrifice them if necessary for our security and freedom – not just people who will do so, but people who must, as a matter of obligation. It requires people who cannot evade responsibility and danger by claiming weakness or sensitivity, who cannot run away, cry or claim special exemptions from the responsibilities of citizenship or the rules of constitutional government based on whatever they find “deeply offensive.”

And it needs such people apart from state functionaries. Otherwise the state will wield a monopoly of these functions, which makes it total.

Men (and really men alone) are required to risk their lives for our security and freedom. Women and homosexuals may well exhibit these qualities, but women are not required to do so, and homosexuals have opted out of the requirement. The only way these groups can be “empowered” is with the backing of – rather than as an alternative to – the government machinery.

The Daily Mail recounts that McAlpine was arrested because the policeman himself claimed to be deeply offended by McAlpine’s views, apparently expressed to him alone. “I am a homosexual, I find that offensive and I’m also the liaison officer for the bisexual-lesbian-gay-transsexual community,” Officer Sam Adams apparently told McAlpine before arresting him. I find many opinions offensive, but I cannot handcuff and incarcerate the people who express them.

Do homosexuals now have their own police that protect only them? Does a “bisexual-lesbian-gay-transsexual” police force arrest only heterosexuals? Not the equal protection of the laws but the subjective feelings of the policeperson – and of the special interests on whose behalf alone he was apparently exercising his official function – determined that McAlpine would be arrested. A free society cannot exist where the police serve special interests and where no distinction is recognized between hurt feelings and crime.

The sexual agenda is the most extreme in our culture today. Here in the U.S., the Employment Nondiscrimination bill will force employers to hire not simply homosexuals who keep their private lives to themselves (and who therefore need no special provision) but cross-dressers who exhibit themselves publicly.

Homosexuality is only part of a larger politics of sex that already exercises highly authoritarian powers, and Christians are not the only ones to run afoul of it. Heterosexual fathers, who embody the hated “patriarchy,” are subject now to a panoply of summary punishments, including incarceration without trial, simply for being fathers. This is exercised mostly through the divorce machinery, but it is spilling over to target both fathers and mothers in intact families.

In “The Prison and the Gallows,” feminist scholar Marie Gottschalk has shown with forthright honesty how the rapid rise in incarceration since the 1970s results directly from the sexual agenda. The U.S. and Britain are the epicenter of the new sexual politics. It is our task to bring it under control.

The alternative is to continue mouthing platitudes, in which case we will be dismissed as a chorus of scolds and moralizers—and yes, bigots. And we will lose.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published at newswithviews.com on July 22, 2004.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

divorce_family_law

Hounding the Divorce Industry

The divorce regime is the most totalitarian institution ever to arise in the United States, Britain, and the other English-speaking democracies. Its operatives in the family courts and the social service agencies recognize no private sphere of life. “The power of family court judges is almost unlimited,” according to Judge Robert Page of the New Jersey family court. “Social workers are perceived to have nearly unlimited power,” a San Diego Grand Jury concludes. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Total immunity [enjoyed by social workers] is absolute power.”

The divorce regime is responsible for much more than “ugly divorces,” “nasty custody battles,” and other clichés. It is the most serious perpetrator of human and constitutional rights violations in the Western world today. Because it strikes the most basic institution of any civilization – the family – the divorce regime is a threat not only to social order but to civil freedom. It is also almost completely unopposed. No political party and no politicians question it. No journalists investigate it in any depth. A few attorneys have spoken out, but they are eventually suspended or disbarred. Some academics have written about it, but they soon stop. No human rights or civil liberties groups challenge it, and some positively support it. Very few “pro-family” lobbies question it. This is because the divorce regime operates through money, political power, and fear.

The divorce regime is much more serious than simply “unfairness” or “gender bias” against fathers in custody proceedings. It is the government’s machine for destroying the principal check on its power – the family – and criminalizing its main rival: fathers. The most basic human and constitutional rights are routinely violated in America’s family courts. The lives of children and parents are in serious danger once they are, as the phrase goes, taken into “custody.” Systemic conflicts-of-interest among government and private officials charged with child custody, child support, child protection, and connected matters have created a witch hunt against plainly innocent citizens.

The terror of the divorce regime is not a future possibility; it is a present reality. The following methods are currently employed by family courts and other government agents. These practices are now widespread in America:

  • mass incarcerations without trial or charge
  • forced confessions
  • children forcibly separated from parents who are under no suspicion of legal wrongdoing and parents stripped of the care, custody, and companionship of their children without explanation
  • government agents entering the homes, demanding and examining private papers and personal effects, and seizing the property of citizens who are under no suspicion of legal wrongdoing
  • official court records, including hearing tapes and transcripts, doctored and falsified with the knowledge of court officials and evidence fabricated against the innocent
  • defendants denied the constitutional right to face their accusers
  • bureaucratic police authorized to issue subpoenas and arrest warrants against parents, with no hearing and contrary to due process of law
  • special courts created specifically to process parents for political offenses
  • forced labor facilities created specifically for parents
  • children instructed to hate their parents with the backing of government officials
  • children forced by government officials to act as informers against their parents
  • children abused and killed with the backing of government officials
  • knowingly false allegations, for which no evidence is presented, accepted as fact without proof, overturning the presumption of innocence, and not punished when demonstrated to be untrue
  • parents ordered by government officials to separate from their spouses, on pain of losing their children
  • parents forced to pay the private fees of court officials they have not hired and whose services they have not sought or used, on pain of incarceration
  • parents suspected of no legal wrongdoing punitively stripped of their property and income, sometimes at gunpoint, and reduced to penury
  • government officials using the mass media to vilify private American citizens, and political leaders using their offices as platforms to verbally attack private American citizens, who have no right of reply or opportunity to defend themselves
  • parents jailed without trial reportedly beaten, in at least one case fatally, and denied medical attention while in police custody.

I have made these charges in some of the most reputable publications in the English language. They have never been refuted. Yet neither have they been corrected or even addressed by public officials, the media, or academics.

My site (http://www.stephenbaskerville.net) will tell you the truth about the divorce regime. It contains virtually all my published workssome 100 articles, several studies, and a book on the fatherhood crisis and the corruption of the divorce industry (except book reviews and radio commentaries) For better or worse, these are the most strongly worded writings to appear on this subject in mainstream publications.

I am heavily indebted for the many letters, stories, documents, clippings, studies, citations, books, e-mail communications, and telephone callscollected and sent to me by hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. It is not possible to name all these people, and many prefer not to be named.

 

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published at www.stephenbaskerville.net.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.

gaymarriage

Divorced From Reality

Defenders of marriage must face some hard facts or they are going to lose their fight—and with it, quite possibly, their religious freedom as well. Federal judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling nullifying Proposition 8 in California illustrates that, unless we can demonstrate very specific reasons why same-sex marriage is socially destructive, it will soon be the law of the land.

With conservatives as prominent as Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter joining those “influential Americans,” in the words of the National Review, who “have been coming increasingly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as irrational at best and bigoted at worst,” we can no longer rely on vague assertions that homosexual marriage weakens true marriage in some way—which in itself, actually, it does not.

Considerable nonsense has been written by some opponents of same-sex marriage, while some critical truths are not being heard. Confronting the facts can enable us to win not only this battle but several even more important ones involving family decline and the social anomie it produces.

First: Marriage exists primarily to cement the father to the family. This fact is politically incorrect but undeniable. The breakdown of marriage produces widespread fatherlessness, not motherlessness. As Margaret Mead pointed out long ago—yes, leftist Margaret Mead was correct about this—motherhood is a biological certainty whereas fatherhood is socially constructed. The father is the weakest link in the family bond, and without the institution of marriage he is easily discarded.

The consequences of failing to link men to their offspring are apparent the world over. From our inner cities and Native American reservations to the north of England, the banlieues of Paris, and much of Africa, fatherlessness—not poverty or race—is the leading predictor of virtually every social pathology among the young. Without fathers, adolescents run wild, and society descends into chaos.

The notion that marriage exists for love or “to express and safeguard an emotional union of adults,” as one proponent puts it, is cant. Many loving and emotional human relationships do not involve marriage. Even the conservative argument that marriage exists to rear children is too imprecise: marriage creates fatherhood. No marriage, no fathers.

Once this principle is recognized, same-sex marriage makes no sense. Judge Walker’s “finding of fact” that “gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage” is rendered preposterous. Marriage between two men or two women simply mocks the purpose of the institution. Homosexual parenting only further distances biological fathers (and some mothers too) from their children, since at least some homosexual parents must acquire their children from someone else—usually through heterosexual divorce.

Here is the second unpleasant truth: homosexuals did not destroy marriage, heterosexuals did. The demand for same-sex marriage is a symptom, not a cause, of the deterioration of marriage. By far the most direct threat to the family is heterosexual divorce. “Commentators miss the point when they oppose homosexual marriage on the grounds that it would undermine traditional understandings of marriage,” writes family scholar Bryce Christensen. “It is only because traditional understandings of marriage have already been severely undermined that homosexuals are now laying claim to it.”

Though gay activists cite their desire to marry as evidence that their lifestyle is not inherently promiscuous, they readily admit that marriage is no longer the barrier against promiscuity that it once was. If the standards of marriage have already been lowered, they ask, why shouldn’t homosexuals be admitted to the institution?

“The world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50% divorce rates preceded gay marriage,” Andrew Sullivan points out. “All homosexuals are saying C9 is that, under the current definition, there’s no reason to exclude us. If you want to return straight marriage to the 1950s, go ahead. But until you do, the exclusion of gays is simply an anomaly—and a denial of basic civil equality.”

Feminist Stephanie Coontz echoes the point: “Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that, with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.”

Thus the third inconvenient fact: divorce is a political problem. It is not a private matter, and it does not come from impersonal forces of moral and cultural decay. It is driven by complex and lucrative government machinery operating in our names and funded by our taxes. It is imposed upon unwilling people, whose children, homes, and property may be confiscated. It generates the social ills that rationalize almost all domestic government spending. And it is promoted ideologically by the same sexual radicals who now champion same-sex marriage. Homosexuals may be correct that heterosexuals destroyed marriage, but the heterosexuals were their fellow sexual ideologues.

Conservatives have completely misunderstood the significance of the divorce revolution. While they lament mass divorce, they refuse to confront its politics. Maggie Gallagher attributes this silence to “political cowardice”: “Opposing gay marriage or gays in the military is for Republicans an easy, juicy, risk-free issue,” she wrote in 1996. “The message [is] that at all costs we should keep divorce off the political agenda.”

No American politician of national stature has seriously challenged unilateral divorce. “Democrats did not want to anger their large constituency among women who saw easy divorce as a hard-won freedom and prerogative,” writes Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. “Republicans did not want to alienate their upscale constituents or their libertarian wing, both of whom tended to favor easy divorce, nor did they want to call attention to the divorces among their own leadership.”

In his famous denunciation of single parenthood, Vice President Dan Quayle was careful to make clear, “I am not talking about a situation where there is a divorce.” A lengthy article in the current Political Science Quarterly is devoted to the fact—at which the author expresses astonishment—that self-described “pro-family” Christian groups devote almost no effort to reforming divorce laws.

This failure has seriously undermined the moral credibility of the campaign against same-sex marriage. “People who won’t censure divorce carry no special weight as defenders of marriage,” writes columnist Froma Harrop. “Moral authority doesn’t come cheap.”

Just as marriage creates fatherhood, so divorce today should be understood as a system for destroying it. It is no accident that divorce court has become largely a method for plundering and criminalizing fathers. With such a regime arrayed against them, men are powerfully incentivized against marrying and starting a family. No amount of scolding by armchair moralists is going to persuade men into marriages that can mean the loss of their children, expropriation, and incarceration.

The fourth point is perhaps the most difficult to grasp: marriage is not entirely a public institution that government may legitimately define and regulate. It certainly serves important public functions. But marriage also creates a sphere of life beyond official control—what Supreme Court Justice Byron White called a “realm of family life which the state cannot enter.” This does not mean that anything can be declared a marriage. On the contrary, it means that marriage creates a singular zone of privacy for one purpose above all: it is the bond within which parents may raise their children without government interference.

Parenthood, after all, is politically unique. It is the one relationship in which people may exercise coercive authority over others. It is the one exception to state’s monopoly of force, which is why government is constantly trying to undermine and invade it. Without parental and especially paternal authority, legitimized by the bonds of marriage, government’s reach is total. This is already evident in those communities where marriage and fathers have disappeared and government has moved in to replace them with welfare, child-support enforcement, public education, and tax-subsidized healthcare.

Marriage is paradoxical in a way that is critical to our political problems—and that causes considerable confusion among conservatives and libertarians. Marriage must be recognized by the state precisely because it creates a sphere of parental authority from which the state must then withdraw. Government today can no longer be counted upon to exercise this restraint voluntarily. We must all constantly demand that it do so. Marriage—lifelong and protected by a legally enforceable contract—gives us the legal authority and the moral high ground from which to resist encroachments by the state.

Prohibitions on homosexual marriage will not save the institution. As Robert Seidenberg writes in the Washington Times, “Even if Republicans were to succeed in constitutionally defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, some judge somewhere would soon discover a novel meaning for ‘man’ or ‘woman’ or ‘between’ or ‘relationship’ or any of the other dozen words that might appear in the amendment.”

This is already happening. Britain’s Gender Recognition Act allows transsexuals to falsify their birth certificates retroactively to indicate they were born the gender of their choice. “The practical effect C9 will inevitably be same-sex ‘marriage’,” writes Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail. “Marriage as a union between a man and a woman will be destroyed, because ‘man’ and ‘woman’ will no longer mean anything other than whether someone feels like a man or a woman.”

So what is the solution? A measure already before Congress may show the way. Though not intended primarily to save marriage, the proposed Parental Rights Amendment is the first substantial step in the right direction. It protects “the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.” How does this strengthen marriage?

Reaffirming the rights of parents—married parents particularly—to raise their own children would weaken government interference in the family. Especially if worded so as to protect the bond between children and their married fathers, such a measure could undermine both the divorce regime and same-sex marriage by establishing marriage as a permanent contract conferring parental rights that must be respected by the state. Within the bonds of marriage, it would preserve the rights of fathers, parents of both sexes, and spouses generally, and it would render same-sex marriage largely pointless. Marriages producing children would be effectively indissoluble, and there would be fewer fatherless children for homosexuals to adopt. Men would come to understand that to have full rights as fathers they must marry before conceiving children, and they would thus have an interest in ensuring the institution’s permanence.

This is not a small undertaking. It would mean confronting the radical sexual establishment in its entirety—not only homosexuals but their allies among feminists, bar associations, psychotherapists, social workers, and pubic schools. It would raise the stakes significantly—or rather it would highlight how high the stakes already are. It would also focus public attention on the interconnectedness of these threats to the family and freedom. It would foster a coalition of parents with a vested personal interest in marriage and parental rights.

The alternative is to continue mouthing platitudes, in which case we will be dismissed as a chorus of scolds and moralizers—and yes, bigots. And we will lose.

Stephen BaskervilleStephen Baskerville is IAI’s Senior Fellow in Political Science and Human Rights. He is Associate Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society and at the Independent Institute.

This article was originally published at theamericanconservative.com on November 22, 2010.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.