By Harold Pease, Ph. D
As reported, every school district in the country received a May 12, 2016 letter allowing transgender students in public schools to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen (not their actual) gender identity. Those not complying are threatened with lawsuits and loss of federal aid.
This federal pressure to be obedient to federal whim, or in this case a radical reinterpretation of old law, is not new. In the seventies President Richard Nixon had speed limits on freeways reduced to 55 miles per hour, lasting over a decade, because of an alleged energy shortage. After a time a Wyoming governor reposted freeway speed in his state to 65. The governor was right, speed regulation on freeways was not a delegated power listed in Article I, Section 8 nor had such power been added to the federal government by way of an amendment to the Constitution. The federal government threatened loss all federal funds for new construction and/or highway repair for non-complying states. Wyoming returned to 55 mph.
About the same time a new directive, similar to the present Obama transgender directive, required institutions of higher learning receiving federal funds to have open gender housing should students demand it. Brigham Young University (BYU) refused on the basis that as a religious institution male/female dorm separation for singles was a fundamental religious principle. The federal government threatened the University with the loss of all federal funds should it not comply. BYU still refused. Coed dorms is also not a federal power as per the enumeration clauses, again in Section 8, and are therefore totally a state power as per Amendment 10. Actually the word education is not in the Constitution so there exists no federal constitutional authority. The federal government cut off all federal funds to the “rebel” university.
The difference between Wyoming and BYU was that the university had never accepted a dime from the federal government, thus the federal government had nothing to cut off. It had no power to blackmail the institution into compliance. It could, and did, fume and bluster threats but it made no difference. Finding no way to punish the institution itself, it went after the poor students unable to attend without a government guaranteed loan by cutting them off; in time that too was dropped. Enrollment remained untouched as demand always exceeded availability.
Sometime in the late 80’s I was appointed to a special county commission to assess how Kern County of California could deal with all the edicts emanating from the federal government and still be free. It was a strange question. I remained mostly silent as others wrestled in complete frustration with the question, getting nowhere. There seemed to be no solution. Then I asked, “How much slavery have you purchased?” The question was greeted with universal stares and silence, so I asked again. “How much slavery have you purchased?” When you line up for the “free” government money you give the giver power over you because he can cut it off after you have made yourself dependent upon it. “So how much money have you taken because that is what will be cut off should you wish to really run your own county?” “Well, not as much as adjoining Los Angeles County,” came the reply. I had made my point. We were freer than LA County.
The federal government has no constitutional authority to fund anything not enumerated in the Constitution, but it has for decades with nary a complaint from the recipients of the “free” money who lined up like hogs at a feeding trough to receive. Our governors, county commissioners, city councilmen and school administrators have lined up knees bent, palms outreached and open, tongues drooling for the scraps from the table because the “free” money was easier to get than raising local taxes and telling the federal government no.
This without a thought to the “drug” dependency they created for their governments down the road, not noticed until the government asks them for compliance on something that they know is not reasonable or right. Most still will bow their heads in shame but remain in servitude hoping that the next edict will not be so demanding. But they have lost their ability to be independent of their new master—the federal government—that has far more power over them than that imposed by the tiny list of delegated powers in the Constitution. The will of the people they serve is now very much secondary.
In my own profession I have never seen an administrator turn down the “free” money that he used to make himself look better with federal funds because it allowed him to show new buildings or programs as evidence of his excellence. The federal controls that came with it were a small price to pay for the “shiny stuff,” he reasoned. Again, the word education is not in the Constitution but almost every aspect of education is today influenced at the federal level.
My point!! BYU had the right solution to the problem by refusing any federal monies and therefore federal influence. States and communities that didn’t say no to the enticement of “free” money have allowed the federal government to worm her way into all aspects of our lives, a hundred times more than had we stayed with the enumerated powers of the Constitution, to the point that it now tells us where we can go to the bathroom. Sadly we have sold ourselves into dependence. Texas provides the only solution at this point: “the state is willing to forfeit $10 billion in federal education dollars rather than comply.” Will other states and lesser governments follow and break the dependence or continue groveling for the money and more slavery?
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.