NY’s Nanny State: Denying Religious and Personal Liberties Print
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 18 April 2012


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In 1993, I ran for mayor of New York City as the nominee of N.Y.’s Conservative and Right-to-Life Parties against the Democratic incumbent, Mayor David Dinkins and the Republican-Liberal candidate Rudy Giuliani. 

In that campaign, I championed the principle of subsidiarity and vigorously opposed the city’s social engineering agenda, clearly designed to eradicate the influence of Judeo-Christian principles on public policies.

I was particularly outspoken against the imposition of ideologically driven policies and practices that denied parents the right to decide what was best for their children. Hence, I called for the elimination of the revised kindergarten to sixth grade “HIV/AIDS Curriculum” and the “Children of the Rainbow Curriculum.”

The AIDS curriculum very graphically informed elementary children how to have safe sex and the “multicultural” Rainbow Curriculum described homosexuals as a normal cultural group. But it had nothing to say, of course, about Judaeo-Christian cultural norms. 

The Rainbow Curriculum’s bibliography included the now famous books Heather Has Two Mommies, Daddy's Roommate, and Rapunzel’s Revenge: Fairytales for Feminists.

In the years since I lost that election, state and city bureaucrats have continued to expand their reach into every home and church. New York has become the poster child for the intrusive Nanny State dedicated to stripping its citizenry of their liberties and denying them the right to make decisions for themselves.

In recent years, city legislation has been crafted to ban trans fats, foie gras, candy-flavored cigarettes, aluminum baseball bats, and new fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods. 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also promoted laws that ban salt. Bloomberg compared salt to asbestos in schools. “Salt and asbestos, clearly both are bad for you,” he has said. The mayor has also requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture to forbid food stamp recipients from purchasing sugared soft drinks.


New York’s state legislature has also tried to inflict restrictions on New Yorkers including:

  • A law that requires nutritional labels on restaurant menus;
  • A law that orders schools to measure the fat of public school students;
  • A law that imposes a “fat tax” on junk food;
  • A law to prohibit use of any kind of cell phone in an automobile.

There have also been egregious laws implemented and policies pursued to force churches and their members to adhere to Nanny State elites’ visions of a wholesome society.

For instance, in March 2001, a bill, which eliminated the “refusal clause” and forced religious educational, health, and human service ministries to include birth control in health care coverage for their employees was signed into law by a baptized Catholic, Governor George Pataki. 

The law was blasted by New York City’s then Cardinal Edward Egan as “un-American” and it was condemned by the N.Y. Catholic Bishops Conference as “health-care totalitarianism.”  

Another assault on religious freedom: New York City has forbidden public schools to rent their auditoriums to religious congregations for the purpose of worshipping in non-school hours. Concerned that the schools would appear to be “affiliated with a particular religious belief or practice,” the city argued the practice violated separation between Church and State.

            Fighting the decision in the courts, the Bronx Household of Faith argued that the city regulation “violated its constitutional right to exercise religion free from government interference.” On February 16, 2012, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled the city can kick religious worshipers out of the schools.

The latest: New York education bureaucrats have ordered the banning of dozens of words and topics from public school-issued English, math, science, and social studies tests. They want to extend to students the right not to have their feelings hurt when taking standard exams. Here’s a sampling of forbidden topics:

Nuclear weapons
Computers in the home
Death and disease
Religious holidays and festivals
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
Loss of employment
War and bloodshed
These words will not appear in city or statewide exams, ostensibly because students who read them might find them offensive or upsetting, and their ability to complete or pass the test may thus be hampered.

A test question that includes “money,” “vacation,” “expensive gifts,” might unnerve or hurt or sadden a student whose family lacks the financial resources to pay for vacations or buy gifts.

And we know why religious words or references are verboten – they are viewed as too controversial by their very nature. Non-believers may get depressed or feel excluded.

William Murphy, bishop of N.Y.’s Rockville Centre Diocese, recently observed, “More and more, government becomes the regulator and then the administrator of seemingly endless new social positions and policies to the detriment of intermediate institutions and local free initiatives.” 

Bishop Murphy went on to state that the Nanny State was violating subsidiarity, which holds that government exists to protect and guarantee the freedom of every person to perform social activities, and that those are best performed by the lowest and smallest groups capable of carrying them out. 

For the sake of the common good, government must act not as a dictator but as an umpire; making calls that protect the rights of families to make decisions based on their religious beliefs.

New York stands as a warning sign of what happens when bureaucrats arrogate to themselves powers that are not properly theirs. Every such power taken from individuals and groups diminishes freedoms. And the fact that all this happens under the guise of good intentions does not make any difference to the final result.

George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.


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