America's Growing Police State..

09/06/2012 08:15

by John W. Whitehead {Rutherford Institute}

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face --forever! - George Orwell, 1984

With each passing day, America  inches further down the slippery slope toward a police state. Regrettably, George Orwell's stark image of the future as "a boot stamping on a human face--forever" perfectly describes the American government's evolving relationship with its people, one that has become less reliant on maintaining an open dialogue and more reliant on the intractable long arm of the law.

As a result, we find ourselves living in a nation that is fast imploding, one that is losing sight of what freedom is really all about and, in the process, is transitioning from a republic governed by the people to a police state.

With long-standing constitutional protections gone, those who attempt to exercise their rights are finding themselves forced to defend themselves against an increasingly inflexible and uncompromising government.  In other words, "we the people" are becoming enslaved by the very institution that was entrusted with guarding our liberties. As the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas fittingly remarked, "I didn't know I was a slave until I found out I couldn't do the things I wanted."  

America is rapidly spiraling into an authoritarian vortex from which there appears to be no return. In such an environment, the law becomes yet another tool to oppress the people.

Indeed, whereas our laws used to focus on penalizing wrongful conduct such as treason, murder, theft and the like, today the emphasis is on altering social and economic behavior. At the federal level alone, there are more than 5000 so-called crimes on the books, with as many as 300,000 regulatory crimes. And still Congress continues to create new crimes at an average of one per week. Boston lawyer Harvey Silvergate, author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, estimates that the average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day. The problem is, of course, is that this overabundance of vague laws renders otherwise innocent activity illegal. The aim is absolute control by way of thousands of regulations that dictate when, where, how and with whom we live our lives.

In such a society, we are all petty criminals, guilty of violating some minor law.

Consequently, we now find ourselves operating in a strange new world where small farmers who dare to make unpasteurized goat cheese and share it with members of their community are finding their farms raided, while home gardeners  face jail time for daring to cultivate their own varieties of orchids without having completed sufficient paperwork.

This frightening state of affairs, where a person can actually be arrested and incarcerated for the most innocent and inane activities, including feeding a whale and collecting rainwater on their own property (these are actual cases in the courts right now) is due to what law scholars refer to as overcriminalization. "Such laws", notes journalist George Will, "which enable government zealots to  accuse almost anyone of committing three felonies in a day, do not just enable government misconduct, they incite prosecutors to intimidate decent people who never had culpable intentions. And to inflict punishment without crimes."

Consequently, The Rutherford Institute is increasingly called on to defend individuals who are being charged with crimes for such innocent activities as holding Bible studies in their homes, passing out free bottles of water on hot days and playing cops and robbers on the school playground.

The city of Phoenix is a perfect example of a government bureaucracy consumed with churning out laws, statues, codes and regulations that reinforce its powers and value systems, while choking the life out of our individual freedoms. For instance, The Rutherford Institute has been called on repeatedly to intervene after Phoenix officials, attempting to enforce misapplied zoning codes, not only prohibited a Christian family from having more than 12 people in their home at one time but actually raided the family's home, fined them more than $12,000 and jailed the father, Michael Salman, for 60 days.  All because they committed the 'so-called' crime of holding a weekly Bible study in their home, allegedly in violation of the city's building codes.  Another Phoenix resident was told that she could not hand out free bottles of cold water to passersby on a public sidewalk during a 'First Friday' festival as a means of exercising her Christian beliefs. A Neighborhood preservation Inspector with the city of Phoenix informed Dana-Crow Smith that she was violating the city code by passing out free bottles of water without a vendor's permit.

We are marching steadfastly toward a future that is hostile to religious freedom but is at odds with every God given freedom and principle that once made this country a haven for the oppressed and persecuted. Increasingly, we have morphed into a culture that has quietly accepted surveillance in virtually every area of our lives, police and drug sniffing dogs in our children's schools, national databases that track our finances and activites, sneak and peak searches of our homes without our knowledge or consent and terrorism laws that turn average Americans into suspected criminals.

Gradually a police/surveillance state has been erected around us.

What these incidents reveal is that the government bureaucracy has stopped viewing us, the American people, as human beings who should be treated with worth and dignity.

Keep in mind, the boundaries of a police state extend far beyond the boundaries of law enforcement. In fact, a police state is characterized by pervasive bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, miniaturization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions, to name but a few.  Sound familiar?
It should. It perfecting describes the emerging police state all around us, one which has infiltrated all aspects of our lives, from the mundane to the outright oppressive.

In the past year alone, President Obama approved legislation to allow drones, unmanned aerial planes used in war zones, to fly over American cities. And, not to be outdone, Congress passed the NDAA, which would allow for the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens by the armed forces. This law is a threat to anyone causing trouble, which to the government means anybody exercising their right to speak freely and challenge those in power.

Congress also authorized legislation that essentially establishes a surveillance state in America and eviscerates the freedom of the Bill of Rights.  And the state governments, which are supposed to check the reach of the federal government, have proven to be little better. For instance, in Michigan, state police have reportedly taken to using high-tech devices to "search" cell phones during routine traffic stops.

As egregious as these assaults on our rights are, they still pale in comparison to what is happening to our religious freedoms. Indeed, as we have gone from a nation where religious freedom was highly prized to one in which religion is being privatized and forced out of the public institutions.  We live in a nation where Christian street preachers are put under police surveillance for attempting to share the gospel with passersby at a small town outdoor festival; where Christian teachers in the public schools are harassed for daring to teach young people how to think for themselves especially when it comes to understanding how the world came to be. A world where families are targeted by social services workers because their Christian values are considered 'unhealthy' for their children.

It's midnight in America right now. But the real question is, will there be a dawn?  That's up to you and me. The future is in our hands.  For the sake of all those who are groaning under the weight of an oppressive government's demands, help us keep freedom alive in America.