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Sex Education and the Constitution
by Isabel Lyman
16 April 2000

Isabel Lyman If Charlie Meadows ever takes up professional wrestling, his stage name should be "Mr. Constitution." See, Charlie's the type who would select The Federalist Papers, over the latest John Grisham novel, for beach reading. He chairs the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee and holds court every Wednesday in the "Right of Rush room" at the Hideaway Restaurant.

As an overall-wearing, window-washer from Guthrie who has yet to acquire an e-mail address, he is certainly a colorful personality.

I was telling ol' Charlie, recently, that Ernest Istook, Edmond's congressman, is battling the Clinton administration to retain funding for a cause that the Christian right swoons over - abstinence education. According to a press release, "Last year, Istook successfully offered an amendment for a $20 million (40 percent) increase in federal grants to promote teen abstinence."

The free-love Clintonists, however, prefer distributing contraceptives to adolescents, so they are trying to kill Rep. Istook's efforts in their new budget proposals.

The contrast is stark.

In one corner, there's earnest Ernest who does not want your teenage daughter or son to behave like that Lewinsky girl. In the other corner, there's Hubba Bubba who is hell-bent on filling the halls of high school with bimbos who'd qualify for a White House internship.

But traditional vs. liberal pieties isn't what's at stake. Join the Charlie Meadows fan club, and you realize there's only one question to pose in this debate: Where in the Constitution do you find the authority for the Congress to use your money to fund sex ed?

Citizen Meadows answers like this. First, he says that encouraging teens to wait to have sex until they are married is honorable. (I agree.) But, he adds, the Constitution has put specific limits on what federal legislators can do. (That's true. The enumerated powers of Congress are contained in Article I, Section 8, and include such tasks, as coining money, declaring war and establishing post offices. Funding education is not among those powers.)

The Founding Fathers did not give Mr. Istook or Mr. Clinton, for that matter, the mandate that adolescents in all 50 states be taught the facts of life. Using taxpayer money for that purpose, according to Charlie, is simply legal plunder.

Ideally, education dilemmas involving the young are best resolved by parents. The Founders, however, were not opposed to state and municipal government leaders finding ways to handle these predicaments. James Madison might applaud Gov. John Engler's determination to promote school vouchers. Thomas Jefferson would not deny Gov. Angus King the opportunity to provide every seventh-grader in Maine with an Internet-ready portable computer. This kind of regional governing better addresses the needs or beliefs of local folks.

It's easy to understand why a despot like Bill Clinton, who has increased the Welfare and the Warfare State, has no use for the Constitution, and especially the 10th Amendment, in his administration. But it's a shame when a decent fella - a so-called conservative Republican - like Ernest Istook doesn't follow the Framers' intentions, either.

Mr. Constitution, you got your work cut out for you.


This column appeared in The Edmond Sun on April 16, 2000.

Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
Click here for an index of other Isabel Lyman columns.
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