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6 Rights You Could Lose Under President Ron Paul


Ron Paul is a marketing genius. His Tenth Amendment paleoconservative schtick sounds like a small-government philosophy - but if you look at how it would actually affect your day-to-day life, it's clear that the system he proposes would actually be much more restrictive, and much more authoritarian, than that of any of his primary opponents.

If Ron Paul is elected president and gets the full power of Congress behind him, you can say goodbye to these six basic rights - starting with...

1. Your right to privacy.

In 2005, Rep. Ron Paul sponsored the We the People Act (H.R. 539), a bill intended to limit the power of the Supreme Court. While the law would appear to be a prima facie violation of the separation of powers (necessitating a constitutional amendment for enforcement), Paul took it seriously and made it a centerpiece of his legislative policy agenda.

The law's primary function was to eliminate the right to privacy as it had been defined in past Supreme Court cases. Section 3 explicitly states that (emphasis mine)...

The Supreme Court of the United States and each Federal court--
(1) shall not adjudicate--
(A) any claim involving the laws, regulations, or policies of any State or unit of local government relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion;
(B) any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction; or
(C) any claim based upon equal protection of the laws to the extent such claim is based upon the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation; and
(2) shall not rely on any judicial decision involving any issue referred to in paragraph (1)."

As we'll discuss below, this would have major repercussions on LGBT rights and reproductive rights, which rely on an implicit privacy right extended by the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments - but because it doesn't specify what kind of privacy rights are covered by this clause, it would also overturn all search-and-seizure restrictions brought about by federal rulings grounded in the Fourth Amendment.

End result: if put into effect, Ron Paul's policy agenda would allow unlimited government searches and unlimited government surveillance - restricted only by state-level rulings, which don't apply to federal law enforcement agencies. It would also interfere with...

2. Your right to have sex.

It's no secret that Ron Paul's political future hinges on the Religious Right, which has controlled the Republican base for thirty years. And few things upset the Religious Right more over the past decade than Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Supreme Court ruling that struck down anti-gay sodomy laws on the basis of the implicit right to privacy.

Ron Paul hated this ruling, writing in an essay that "there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution" and that "the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex."

So it's probably not a coincidence that Rep. Paul wrote the We the People Act while the ink was still drying on Lawrence, and specifically included a clause pertaining to privacy-rights rulings having to do with "any issue of sexual practices..." If put into effect, the We the People Act would overturn Lawrence and - especially coupled with the general prohibition on privacy rights described above - give the bedroom police more power than they have ever had before. And it would destroy federal circuit court rulings based on Lawrence's privacy standard, which have overturned archaic laws banning everything from cohabitation to sex toys.

And if you do only have the heterosexual, missionary, married sex that would be permitted in Ron Paul's America, that could spell trouble, because Ron Paul would also eliminate...

3. Your right to purchase and use birth control.

It's no secret that Ron Paul wants to ban abortion; he's said so since at least 1981, when he infamously compared abortion to the Holocaust and described Roe v. Wade (1973) as "the ultimate state tyranny." Sadly, that's pretty standard rhetoric for a national Republican candidate - and his decision to join with other Republican candidates in support of a federal Human Life Amendment banning abortion is consistent with that fairly common position. But his radically authoritarian views on birth control are much more eccentric.

The right to privacy as we currently understand it was defined not in Roe, but eight years earlier in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). It was there that the Supreme Court defined bodily autonomy as implicit in the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, establishing the very right to privacy that the We the People Act would overturn. And because the We the People Act would prohibit new privacy-related federal court cases on issues dealing with "sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction," the federal court system would be helpless to prevent future state-level bans on birth control. Ron Paul has also attacked U.S. Department of Health funding for birth control on dozens of occasions, referring to reproductive health funding as a series of "government family-planning schemes."

And be careful how you protest in Ron Paul's America, because one of the first things to go would be...

4. Your right to show a lack of respect to the U.S. flag.

Many Ron Paul supporters have taken to using a modified U.S. flag as their online profile picture - upside down, crossed out, burning, or otherwise indicative of protest. But if their candidate was actually elected, his history indicates that this would become illegal in many states.

Ron Paul doesn't get much flak on this issue because he has consistently opposed federal constitutional amendments banning flag burning, most recently - and persuasively - in a 2003 speech. But pay special attention to how he closed that speech:
We must be interested in the spirit of our Constitution. We must be interested in the principles of liberty. I therefore urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment. Instead, my colleagues should work to restore the rights of the individual states to ban flag burning, free from unconstitutional interference by the Supreme Court.
He wasn't kidding. In 1997, Rep. Paul had already proposed a constitutional amendment:
SECTION 1. The States shall have power to prohibit the physical destruction of the flag of the United States and Congress shall have the power to prohibit destruction of federally owned flags.
And if you're familiar with the history of flag desecration statutes, you know that they have historically been enforced on a state level anyway. Ron Paul is fine with laws banning flag burning; he just wants to be sure they're not enforced by the federal government, and he wants to be sure the federal court system doesn't interfere with their enforcement.

And this isn't the only First Amendment issue where Ron Paul runs right of center. No, he would also eliminate...

5. Your right to exercise your own religious beliefs.

You may have noticed section 1(A) of the We the People Act above, which would have eliminated all federal court precedents "relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion." Does this make you nervous? It should, regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), because it allows any state to target minority faiths and uncommon religious practices. It also allows states to marble the distinction between religious doctrine and secular law - exactly the sort of theocratic policymaking that has done so much damage in the Middle East and elsewhere.

The federal court system is the sole mechanism of enforcement for the U.S. Bill of Rights. By removing questions of religious free exercise and church-state separation from federal judicial consideration, Ron Paul would be, in effect, repealing those parts of the First Amendment. This is no accident. According to a December 2003 speech, he sees himself as a leader in what he appears to see as a Dominionist struggle against the perpetuation of a secular, "collectivist" state:
"The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers ... Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government's hostility to religion ... The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. Throughout our nation's history, churches have done what no government can ever do, namely teach morality and civility. Moral and civil individuals are largely governed by their own sense of right and wrong, and hence have little need for external government. This is the real reason the collectivist Left hates religion: Churches as institutions compete with the state for the people's allegiance, and many devout people put their faith in God before putting their faith in the state. Knowing this, the secularists wage an ongoing war against religion, chipping away bit by bit at our nation's Christian heritage."
And all of these rights either follow naturally from, or exist in connection with, a fundamental right with which Ron Paul is not in sympathy...

6. Your right to equal protection under the law.

When I wrote about Ron Paul four years ago, he had no real chance of capturing the Republican nomination - and I argued that his ideas, which represented a then-unique paleoconservative agenda, could have a positive effect on what looked to be an increasingly neoconservative Republican Party:
"...[T]here is still one Jeffersonian left in Congress, and his name is Ron Paul. However slim his chances of capturing the nomination, however impractical his ideas, his appeal to the Tenth Amendment is no thinly veiled reference to the days of segregation. He is serious about advocating Thomas Jefferson's approach in every area of government, and the consistency of his platform is both uncommon and refreshing."
Now that the Tea Party has made Ron Paul a mainstream figure, his views are less refreshing than unsettling. We've now known for years about Ron Paul's racist book and newsletters, and much has been made, by his supporters, of anecdotal evidence suggesting that his actions have not always been as harsh as his words, or (less believably) that until recently he had no idea what had been published and sent to his constituents under his name, using his policy vocabulary, with his funds, over a period of decades.

But this is an article about policy concerns, and intent - malicious or otherwise - is not policy. As I wrote in 2009, regarding racial profiling:
For two consecutive years, strong segments of the U.S. Supreme Court have held that intent is the defining standard in discrimination suits. Justice Scalia's concurrence in the Crawford v. Marion County (2008) voter ID case would have legalized not only restrictive voter ID laws, but also (if followed to its logical conclusion) the old Jim Crow standards of poll taxes and literacy tests. And the Supreme Court's execrable majority opinion in ... Ricci v. DeStefano hamstrings the decent efforts of municipalities and other local governments to address real racial disparities in their midst by holding them to the impossible standard of proving, in a court of law, that racial disparities are more intentional than the attempts to address them.

What both of these opinions have in common is that they say that intent defines discrimination--that discrimination is about the 93% and the 7%, about Sgt. Crowley and me, and not about the people who are actually affected by these policies. It is, in and of itself, a racist standard that denies the validity of the experiences of people of color.
What matters most to me is what Ron Paul's policy agenda would do, not the state of his soul, and in that respect his record is damning. His radical commitment to a state's rights agenda has given him a Dixiecrat's civil rights platform. He has worked against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the application of Brown v. Board of Education. He has proposed amending the Constitution to retroactively strip citizenship from native-born Americans based on their parents' immigration violations.

Does this sound like a civil libertarian to you?
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