Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 11:46 AM
In 1993, then Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan published a paper in which he coined the phrase "defining deviancy down."
He was ringing an alarm about what he saw as a dangerous social unraveling as a result of our redefining deviant behavior as normal, rather than doubling down on traditional standards of behavior.
It's through this lens that we should view the Obama administration mandate that employers provide free contraception and sterilization and its refusal to grant an exemption to morally opposed religious institutions.
Our audacious president, as part of his ongoing enterprise to transform America, has gone beyond defining deviancy down.
Abortion, sterilization and sexual promiscuity have not just been redefined as normal. They are considered "reproductive rights" for which we all should foot the bill.
Consider Rush Limbaugh's much ballyhooed verbal assault on a Georgetown law student for testifying before Congress in favor of forcing her Jesuit university to provide free contraception to students.
In a 1969 Gallup poll, 68 percent of respondents said premarital sex was wrong and 21 percent said it was not. Few young women then would have felt comfortable to publicly declare they slept around and it's doubtful that any politician or media personality would have condoned the behavior.
By 2009, in response to the same question, 32 percent said premarital sex was wrong and 60 percent said it was not.
Are we a fairer and more progressive nation today, or have we defined deviancy down?
If you think we're a better nation today because sexual promiscuity is viewed as normal and acceptable, you must also be comfortable with the social developments that go along with this -- most notably, the transformation and breakdown of the traditional American family.
In 1960, 72 percent of American adults were married. Today, 51 percent are.
The most dramatic transformation has taken place in communities most likely to support Democrats and President Barack Obama: blacks and Hispanics.
In 1960, 14 percent of white adults had never been married -- not much different from the 17 percent of never-married blacks and Hispanics.
By 2008, the percentage of never-married white adults had increased to 23 percent. But the proportion grew to 44 percent among blacks and 34 percent among Hispanics.
If you see family breakdown as a negative development, it is clear that defining deviancy down has had the most deleterious effects on those communities in which traditional institutions were weakest to begin with.
As part of the process of defining deviancy down, the words don't change -- only their meaning does.
So the website of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, the organization of Sandra Fluke, the young woman Limbaugh attacked, says "all people are entitled to equal protection of the law, the free exercise of rights, and the enjoyment of economic, political and social well being."
These noble words, which sound as if they could have been written by Thomas Jefferson, are perversely interpreted to mean religious freedom may be denied to a Catholic university, while forcing it to pay for contraception and sterilization for students.
Our nation is drowning in debt, with unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare programs estimated in the range of $70 trillion.
Yet Fluke's idea of injustice is a student relating "how embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that contraception wasn't covered...."
This warranted a personal call from the president of the United States to assuage her hurt feelings from Limbaugh's tough language.
Today, deviancy has been defined so far down it has been turned on its head The Obama administration's idea of deviant is any presumption to religious liberty and any sense that individuals should be personally responsible for the costs and consequences of their behavior.
Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education. Reach her at www.urbancure.org.
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