In the era of the leviathan state, we need the Constitution more than ever. When most citizens think of our obviously expanding government, we think of the direct, obvious costs. The deficit hits record levels, bank bailouts costs $1 trillion, the stimulus nearly matches that, and total government spending - as a percentage of gross domestic product - reaches numbers not seen since the nation's life-and-death struggle during World War II. We're staggered by those numbers, worry about the debt we're passing on to our children and wonder if we live in a nation in decline.
But there's more.
Massive spending means massive government - a system that reaches into virtually every corner of our lives. From house loans to student loans to light bulbs to toilets and even to the cars we buy and drive, we feel the government's direct hand. Corporate executives worry about "pay czars," doctors worry about government-set prices for their services, and we all wonder if the Internal Revenue Service will be monitoring our health insurance choices.
Massive government means government control, the strings attached to money, to participation and even to expression as the government goes beyond the original purpose of its multitude of programs and attempts to alter social outcomes, favor certain viewpoints and - most ominously - suppress others.
One such example is a case that will be heard before the Supreme Court on April 19.
In 2004, the University of California's Hastings College of Law decided to "de-recognize" the Christian Legal Society, a decision that denied CLS the right to meet on campus, denied it access to a student-fee fund that its own members paid into, and even denied it access to campus message and bulletin boards. CLS' crime? The group, like most Christian groups, has rules that limit its leadership and voting membership to people who the share the group's beliefs and agree to live their lives accordingly. In other words, no stealing, no lying, no cheating, no drugs and no extramarital sex.
To Hastings, these common-sense rules were evidence of "discrimination" on religious and sexual-orientation bases. When CLS had the temerity to complain of its treatment, the university had a ready response: We're not depriving you of your rights, we're just limiting your access to "government benefits."
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