The Virginia Constitution Forbids Charity By Force

I know this notion ruffles the feathers of our state senators for Fairfax, but the rules are very clear. Ken Cuccinelli’s “opinion” was not earth-shattering or “irrelevant.” He simply quoted Article II section 16 of our Constitution. The General Assembly obeyed this section all the way up until 2006 (debunking our wonderful state senators’ claim that we have always done this) which prompted delegates to ask the Attorney General for a ruling on the matter. He sided with the Virginia Constitution and there are good reasons for him doing so.

In 2008, former national LP chairman Bill Redpath and Virginian came to speak to the Tidewater Libertarian Party. He was running for US Senate at the time and he said something that really stuck with me:

“We won’t begin to address the fundamental problem of government overspending until the American People position government as an agent for justice, not an agent for good, as there is an infinite amount of good to be done in this world”

This statement is worth breaking down. For one, he does mention that government should be AN agent for justice, not THE agent. Governments throughout history have proven they can not be trusted to be sole arbiters. We need citizen jurors, citizen legislators, politically un-connected magistrates. We are seeing an unfortunate trend in those last two.

Also, he mentions that the amount of “good” to be done is infinite. It knows NO bounds and therefore there is no longer any cap to what government can take from you in the name of doing good. If government has the ability to take your wealth, property, and real estate, then you are not a free man. You are a serf to the government to be evicted on the whim of the sovereign. A free society can not survive under these conditions. We may not feel the ramifications all at once. They are too smart for that because free men will revolt. We’re more like the frog in a boiling pot of water; they turn the heat up slowly so we won’t jump out. We can not crack the door open on this issue. We won’t be able to tell we are in danger until the water is boiling and it is too late.

Besides, how much evil has been done in this world in the name of supporting the “common good” or “greater good”?

When the City of New London decided it wanted to take Susette Kelo’s home, the city did it for the “common good”. They would hand it over to a private developer who would create jobs, generate added tax revenues, and make Pfiser happy. That made it justifiable to violate an individual’s right to property. It was for a greater good. Of course now there is just an empty lot where her home once stood and no good came from any of it.

Persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany was justified by being for the “common good”.

Virginia’s leading statesmen understood this when they drafted our Constitution in 1776. They knew they had to protect individuals from the “common good” strategies of government oppression. Recently a lot of people are finding renewed interest in the US Constitution and are working hard to educate themselves on it. I applaud this, but I also suggest those same people take a look at our state’s constitution because in a lot of ways, it is better. Great Virginians like Patrick Henry and George Mason strongly opposed ratifying the US Constitution for that simple reason, what we had here was better in protecting individual rights. Our constitution has undergone a few major revisions since that time, but the Virginia Bill of Rights is practically the same as it was in 1776. (We added one bad amendment in 2006, 15a, I just don’t understand how denying same sex marriages could be considered a right)

So, Ken’s Cuccinelli’s ruling was that the VA Constitution forbids making any appropriation of public funds, personal property, or real estate to any charitable institution not owned or controlled by the state. That was his ruling because that’s what it says. It is in plain language and easy to understand. Like I stated, there are good reasons for it saying what it does and Janet Howel, it is not “irrelevant”, it is the law. If you don’t like it, you do have the power to introduce an amendment that will and should be shot down.

This year’s budget currently contains 23 million in charitable giving. The first year the GA made such appropriations was 2006 at 37 million.

Some of it is earmarked for foodbanks (which i know are hurting). The special olympics is suppose to get 200K (a worthy cause)

The Governor wants 500K for Virginia Beach based Operation Smile, which gives free dental work to childern…okay….

But then you start seeing stuff like 1 million dollars for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and another 1 million dollars to promote a yearly tall ships festival. How are these things considered charity? That’s one of the problems and why you can’t give government this power.

If a cause is worthy, people will support it through private means. We have a great example of this in Virginia Beach with our Rescue Squad. If you call 911 in Virginia Beach, those who show up at your door to dispense emergency care and get you to the hospital are volunteers. Each neighborhood’s squad buys its own equipment and ambulances. The receive no money from the city or state and beat nation averages in response time and survival rates. If a squad needs a new $30,000 defiberator, you bet they will get the money when they ask for it.

Americans are charitable, giving people. I do a lot of volunteering along with many others I know. It isn’t charity if it is not voluntary. Money taking from one to give to another is still theft. Politicians do not take this money to do good, they take it to purchase votes and influence and then try to sell you on the idea they are doing good.

Those who drafted our Constitution got it right.

Ken Cuccinelli got it right.

Let’s make sure our legislators do too.

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3 Responses to The Virginia Constitution Forbids Charity By Force

  1. Britt Howard says:

    Excellent post Rich! Both you and Cuccinelli are correct.

  2. Agreed. The legislature has no right to donate public money to supposed, “non-profits.”

    Of those that you mentioned, the Tall Ships venture could be considered a marketing investment, as could other ventures that would promote tourism and business investment.

    The greater problem is that the definition of a non-profit has become too broad. Only organizations who provide food, house or deliver medical care to the poor should qualify for 501c(3) status.

    Everyone else should be a taxable entity, including those highly political organizations referred to as churches, synagogues and mosques. They can still remain “free” to worship, but their buildings and land must be taxed right along with all the other businesses and homes. Only those entities who provide direct aid in the form of food, housing and medical care, should be exempt.

    Imagine how the tax burden would be lightened from the citizens backs if all of those self-aggrandizing operations, like the far-left, “university” of Richmond, or PETA, had to pony-up their fair share of property taxes every year.

    In the city of Richmond, nearly a third of the prime real estate is now occupied by various non-profit (although highly political) groups, thereby shifting the local tax burden even greater onto the backs of the citizens and the few remaining businesses.

  3. 04/28/11 The Virginia Constitution Forbids Charity By Force

    Your views couod also apply around the world.

    Charity is not always good. Good intentions often have dire consequences. My favorite example is Haiti.

    Haiti’s population has tripled since 1950. In essence, all charity done in Haiti has contributed to a tripling of not only the population but the suffering. There are now three times more people in pain, hunger, and poverty in Haiti than there was in 1950. Yet, I read locally that we are training people to lower the premature death rate of new-born babies in Haiti. All saved babies, if female, will grow up to make six more babies in poverty, hunger, and suffering.

    If I deliberately raise a houseful of cats, crowded, diseased, emaciated, and neglected, I risk a fine and jail, and deservedly so. Yet, we raise a crowded island full of people under the poorest conditions of planet earth and feel ourselves doing God’s work.

    The solution in Haiti is birth control. Feed and sterilize. The population has to be balanced against the available and sustainable resources. Else, there is no solution. The growing population is turning its island into a wasteland where things can only get worse until we bring in refugees into our country where they can continue their destructive behavior.

    The same thing is happening all over black Africa and most of the third world.

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