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Why Social Conservatives Should be Leery of Ron Paul

Congressman Ron Paul is the only candidate in the Republican field who opposes both federal protection for the unborn and a traditional marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Are these issue outliers peripheral to a race dominated by the economy?

Or are these two issues integral to who Republicans really are?

In 1856, the early Republican Party, shaped largely by Abraham Lincoln, adopted its first platform that stated that “the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign powers over the Territories of the United States for their government; and that in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery.”

Mr. Lincoln believed that slavery and polygamy were morally wrong and that it was the duty of the federal government to protect the traditional definition of marriage and the idea that “all men are created equal even and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

He believed that the federal government should act to put polygamy and slavery on a path to ultimate extinction in the United States. 

Social conservatives still believe that the rights of children to the pursuit of happiness are best protected by traditional marriage between one man and one woman where children are raised by a mother and a father. 

Social conservatives also continue to believe that every human being including the unborn child in the womb is endowed with a Right to Life that ought to be protected by law. 

The Republican Party platform has reflected this principle by advocating (since 2004) for an amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and (since 1976) for an amendment defining unborn babies as persons worthy of protection in American law.

In the Lincoln-Douglass debates of 1858, Illinois Senator Stephen Douglass and Abraham Lincoln clashed over the authentic meaning of the constitutional requirement that every state in the US maintain a republican form of government. 

Mr. Douglas argued that whether or not slavery was evil, the federal government’s intervention would inhibit the right of a state or territory to republican self-governance. Mr. Lincoln maintained that by depriving certain human beings of the protections of the law, legal slavery replaced a true republic with an oligarchy in which some citizens were afforded legal protections and others were not.

After the Civil War, Congress added the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states in part: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

This Amendment served as the constitutional authority for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Brown v. the Board of Education ruling. Many social conservative scholars believe it holds the key to federal protection of the unborn.

Unfortunately, Congressman Paul opposes any federal action to protect the unborn in line with the 14th Amendment and the Republican Party Platform.

At the American Principles Project Palmetto Freedom Forum in South Carolina, Congressman Paul said of the idea of protecting the unborn using the constitutional authority of the 14th Amendment: “Well, if you wanted to stretch the interpretation and enhance the power of the central government rather than enhancing the power of the local government, because they deal with all acts of violence. I think they're quite capable.” 

In other words, much like Mr. Douglass, Dr. Paul believes that states rights supersede human rights. Few Republicans advocate unnecessary federal intervention. But when whole classes of people – whether black Americans or unborn Americans – are legally classified by a state as undeserving of the protection of the law, the Republican Party has always believed the federal government has a role to play.

What is the ultimate purpose of the United States government?

The Declaration of Independence posits that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.” Dr. Paul believes that self-governance necessitates the toleration of profound violations of human rights at the state level.

Dr. Paul has also opposed a constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage from activist judges who are determined to redefine it in spite of the will of the American people from California to Iowa. Dr. Paul may have an uphill battle surviving the scrutiny of social conservatives unless he acknowledges the unwavering duty of every level of government to protect the human rights of unborn babies and the institution of marriage.

James Bell is Policy Adviser to American Principles in Action. Shane Vander Hart is the Iowa communications director for American Principles in Action and founding editor of the Iowa blog Caffeinated Thoughts.