No Con-Census For Domestic Violence

Again, Clinton only talks a good game

By Dave Kopel, of the Independence Institute

6/13/00 11:15 a.m., National Review Online. Also by Kopel: Census Confidentiality? The Check's is in the Mail. Cato Institute. May 4, 1990.

President Clinton talks a very good game about being anti violence against women. After all, he signed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, allowing women who claimed to be victims of gender-based crimes to sue in federal court. VAWA was part of a larger crime bill which also made it illegal for anyone under a domestic restraining order to possess a gun — even if the restraining order was not based on any evidence and included no findings that the person had ever been violent (or might ever be violent).

The Clinton administration defended VAWA all the way to the Supreme Court, which last month held that VAWA is not a legitimate exercise of Congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. And the Clinton Department of Justice is also defending restraining-order law, which is scheduled for oral argument before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 13. In 1999, a federal district court held that the restraining-order law violated the Fifth Amendment (which requires due process before constitutional rights are taken away) and the Second Amendment (which forbids disarming citizens when there is no evidence that they are dangerous).

Indeed, it seems that unless a woman happened to be alone in a room with Bill Clinton, our commander-in-chief is 100% against violence against that woman.

But Clinton ought to do more against domestic violence victims than merely use his DOJ to argue in favor of unconstitutional laws. For example, he should order his Census Bureau to stop intimidating domestic violence victims.

A couple weeks ago, I got the following e-mail (which I've altered slightly, so that it provides less identifying information):

"I have been a victim of domestic violence and abuse over the course of my marriage. My husband walked away from the family after completing an anger management program required by the court. Due to his long-standing behavior, I moved to a new location with my children. Although he has access to voice mail, at this time I do not want him to have any knowledge of our whereabouts and do not want to give anyone information. The census has already visited our home on four occasions. Unfortunately, one of my children was intimidated by a census taker's first visit and gave partial information (names of some family members). I spoke to a different census taker on two other occasions and explained to him why I did not want to answer his questions. He has been here two days in a row and expects to return tomorrow. He informed me today that I am required to give all our names and ethnic identities by constitutional law. And if I don't, there will be other government officials at our home. What information am I legally required to give? Please answer as soon as possible."

I wrote back and explained that the maximum fine for not complying with the census is $100, and prosecutions are extremely rare.

The Census Bureau, of course, will claim that this woman has nothing to fear, since census information is confidential. But we know that the confidentiality law has not always been obeyed by the Census Bureau. And besides, a census employee might let information slip accidentally in a casual conversation. Who knows if the ex-husband might be sitting at the next stool in the bar and overhear?

Moreover, the Census Bureau's credibility about obeying the confidentiality law is undermined by the fact that the Bureau apparently lies to the census takers about what the constitution requires. The constitution authorizes only an "enumeration" for congressional redistricting, and nowhere empowers the federal government to collect people's names or races.

Would you trust a government that threatened domestic violence victims with home visits from "other government officials"? "Vee haf vays of making you talk," used to be what villains from foreign governments said in American movies. Too bad it's now the slogan of the Census Bureau.

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