The Penn State scandal will have one good effect: it will embolden victims of sexual molestation to confront those who harmed them. Unfortunately, it will also embolden political grand-standers to propose draconian and unconstitutional measures that will encourage fear, bigotry, hate and persecution. Rhode Island’s Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, D-Woonsocket, is ready for her close-up.
Baldelli-Hunt proposed a law this year that would allow local police to place signs on public sidewalks or streets in front of the homes of sex offenders, designating them as threats. This shows a nice 17th Century strain, placing her in the ranks of town elders of the past that encouraged various forms of branding former offenders to ensure their perpetual mistreatment. To give her credit, though, she also can claim international inspiration from the past, and may want to consider requiring registered sex offenders to wear, say, brightly colored star-shaped badges.
The Anti-Golden Rule logic of such a proposal is stunning: how would you like a sign proclaiming the worst thing you ever did in your life in front of your home? How would Baldelli-Hunt like a sign in front of her house that says, “Outspoken endorser of persecution and hate”?
An elected official who has no concept of ethics is not only unqualified for office and incompetent, but dangerous, because there are always a lot of ethically-challenged people to lead. Baldelli-Hunt is squarely in the “the ends justify the means” camp with every brutal dictator, vigilante killer, and mad scientist fictional and real, from Dr. Frankenstein to Josef Mengele. “I have some concerns regarding sex offenders because, quite frankly, they don’t walk around with signs telling people they are sex offenders,” Baldelli-Hunt told reporters. “I’m not interested in their rights or protecting them. I have no concern for them because they are the worst of the worst.”
Baldelli doesn’t walk around with signs telling people she is a vicious fool, either, but her words do the job:
1. She doesn’t know who “they” are or what “they” did. The vast majority of former sex offenders have paid their debt to society and are not dangers to anyone. She is, therefore, selling and facilitating bigotry.
2. Every registered sex offender did not commit an offense of equal seriousness. An 18-year-old boy who has consensual sex with a 15 year-old girl is not “the worst of the worst,” or any kind of worst at all.
3. Elected officials in a community are obligated to care about every citizen’s rights, not just the citizens they like and admire. Officials like Baldelli-Hunt brought America witch trials, lynchings and segregation.
She, in fact, is this worst of the worst.
Consider this her sign.