|In February 2009, the Maxim Institute has invited one Janet Marshall, from the US Heritage Foundation, to address their acolytes. Just when I thought that they were heading away from social conservatism, this happens...
If you consulted Wikipedia's entry on the Heritage Foundation, you would be left with a slightly distorted impression of its goals and objectives. The entry predominantly focuses on Heritage's foreign policy work, noting that it emphasises free markets, limited government, strong national defence... and "traditional values." It strongly supported the US Iraqi War and Bush administration foreign policy initiatives, but also backed Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" (radical welfare privatisation) during the nineties, and is funded generously by the Scaife, DeVos and Bradley family trusts, as well as running the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom (oxymorons, anyone?).
Now, according to Heritage's Index of Economic Freedom, we do quite well, polling at about 4-6, even during the "socialist" Clark administration! However, Marshall isn't focused on that- she's Director of their Domestic Policy Studies unit, and the Richard and Helen De Vos Center for Religion and Civil Society. She runs the Heritage Foundation's familyfacts.org website, and endeavours to appeal to social conservatives through working out how "moral values" and civil society are related to limited government, privatised 'consumer-driven' healthcare and foreign policy.
Ms Marshall advocates discriminatory marriage legislation. She backed the US Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have instituted a federal constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. Oh, so this is 'limited government?!' She also distorts what real social scientists say about marriage, same sex parenting and social science- a much better account can be found in Judith Stacey and Tim Biblarz' American Sociological Review paper, "(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter" (April 2001).
In 2006, she also attacked the United Nations, although to her credit, she managed to do so without sounding an utter crank. The United Nations violates 'national sovereignty', she argues. True, but as the Heritage Foundation has been a strong supporter of intervention against Iraqi national sovereignty under the Bush administration, this is an odd objection to make. However, read on, and you'll see what Marshall and her co-author Grace Smith really object to. The United Nations prefers comprehensive welfare states to ad hoc radical welfare privatisation policies, like those instituted in the United States under Clinton and Bush. Heinously, the United Nations also supports social rights, as opposed to individual rights. "Social rights" refer to the right of poor and vulnerable individuals to access public healthcare, welfare benefits and quality public education. About the most charitable thing that can be said about that is that the United States is miserably backward when it comes to social rights and welfare policy.
Marshall's real agenda can be spotted when she objects to reproductive and sexual rights. Well, sorry, but I really don't care if particular sectarian religious interest groups oppose the recognition of reproductive and sexual rights, like a woman's right to choose abortion, or access safe and reliable contraception, or protection from HIV/AIDS, or decriminalisation of abortion, homosexuality and sex work.Marshall and Smith also accuse the United Nations of undermining parental "rights" (so what about parental responsibilities?) She notes that UN Conventions should not be automatically ratified by our governments.
It's all very well to call these issues "religious liberty," but that is not the same as meaningful religious freedom. Meaningful religious freedom can only be safeguarded through faith/state seperation, and although religious groups can and should participate in the public sphere, it weakens democratic institutions through usurping neutral state institutional functions or dictating public policy wholesale from the bully pulpit. What sort of liberty interest is served through statist bans on same-sex marriage? I would submit that it isn't a legitimate one.
I find these arguments ridiculous. The United States may be able to do without UN participation, but as a small state, New Zealand requires participation within as many multilateral international fora as possible to advance our foreign policy and trade objectives. What were Maxim thinking?
Predictably, too, Marshall, David Maloney and Matt Spalding objected to the California Supreme Court decision that validated same-sex marriage within California, until it was theoretically struck down by the passage of Proposition 8. Marshall, Maloney and Spalding argue that same-sex marriage is a "substantive change" in the "essence" of that institution, and that the California Supreme Court engaged in "judicial activism". This social conservative cliché refers to case law where courts don't ratify social conservative public policy preferences, and strike them down in court. They argue that the California Supreme Court weakened the "democratic process," was guilty of 'poor reasoning," and didn't base their opinions on 'sound research,' violated religious "liberty" and demonstrated approval of a "social experiment."
I do wish they'd stuck to taxation policy instead of this. This isn't going to be pretty for them, particularly given that they've provided us with ample warning of their intentions.
http://www.maxim.org.nz/: Maxim Institute
http://www.heritage.org/: Heritage Foundation
Janet Marshall, David Maloney and Matt Spalding: "California Supreme Court's Judicial Activism Threatens Institution of Marriage"
Janet Marshall and Grace Smith: "Human Rights and Social Issues at the United Nations" (31.08.06): http://www.heritage.org/Research/WorldwideFreedom/bg1965.cfm
Janet Marshall: "Marriage: What Social Science Says and Doesn't Say" (17.05.04): http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/wm503.cfm
Janet Marshall: "More Than A Lifestyle Choice:" Washington Times:(26.06.04): http://www.washtimes.com/news/2004/jun/26/20040626-112519-7754r/ Craig Young - 23rd December 2008