December 3, 2002

Some Homeschoolers Concerned About Homeland Security Legislation

There have been many inquiries from members of HSLDA regarding the Home Land Security legislation which recently passed. This is a very large piece of legislation consolidating a number of federal activities and departments. The scope of the bill is broad, with subjects ranging from counter narcotics operations to the arming of commercial airline pilots. Indeed, one of the real difficulties in looking at this bill has been its rapid evolution. The homeland security bill which passed the House on November 13, 2002, was introduced only the day before, making it almost impossible to know the exact language of the legislation prior to the vote.

Most of the bill addresses issues that, while interesting, are beyond the scope of HSLDA's mission. Nevertheless, there are a couple of issues which might impact personal privacy which are of concern to HSLDA. For example, Sec 304 of the bill would appear to allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mandate that all United States citizens be vaccinated for smallpox. This power is currently limited in scope to smallpox vaccinations only and does not include other vaccinations. While we would prefer that provisions such as this allow for exceptions based on religious grounds, we also note that the bill does not require the smallpox vaccination, it simply does not prohibit the possibility that the Secretary of Health and Human Services could mandate 100% compliance.

HSLDA, along with many other pro freedom groups, have expressed our concerns to Congress. However, in the end, the House and Senate were unwilling to change any provision of the bill because such changes would have required the convening of a conference committee between the House and the Senate. This would be nearly impossible as the House is already in recess for the rest of the year. Such changes would have pushed the bill into next year, which supporters assert would hurt the ability of the United States to combat terrorist threats. The House and Senate agreed, passing the bill by overwhelming margins. It is our understanding, however, that the House and Senate may revisit some of the privacy issues this bill raises in the 108th Congress which convenes in January. As always, HSLDA will be there advocating parental rights, education freedom, privacy, and religious liberty.