Last week, the world was captivated and horrified by the story of little Alfie Evans. The British toddler, born with a rare degenerative condition, died early Saturday morning at just 23 months old after spending the final 16 months of his life in a coma.
Alfie’s case was noteworthy, but not only because he was a life gone too soon. The world was captivated by the legal battle that developed between his parents and the British health care system.
Ultimately, the doctors wanted to stop life support and let him die after determining there was nothing left to do. His parents wanted to keep trying.
For parents who were watching the story from a distance, the most horrifying aspect of was the great lengths the British government went to ensure Alfie’s parents couldn’t help him live. And, Alfie’s parents moved mountains in their effort to help him.
They secured Italian citizenship for Alfie and had an air ambulance ready to take him to a Vatican-owned hospital in Italy that had expressed an interest in taking care of him. Rather than turn the dying boy over to his parents with a hug and an expression of regret that there wasn’t more that could be done, the hospital effectively kidnapped Alfie.
They placed thirty police officers in front of a hospital to ensure that if they weren’t going to try to help Alfie, no one would.
There was no shortage of irony.
Alfie’s mother could have killed him through abortion for being sick, but she was not allowed to try to save his life despite it. While Alfie’s family would be free to transport a loved one to another country to die through assisted suicide, they were forbidden to carry Alfie to another country in an attempt to live.
But there’s a more significant point in all of this that shouldn’t be missed. Government has forgotten its place in the world; not just in England.
For the same reasons we celebrate the separation of powers within our government, we must reestablish the separation of institutions within our cultures. The government cannot fill the role of a parent and should know better than to try, especially when willing, caring, and capable parents are involved.
The problem with the British government, in this case, is not that they disagreed with Alfie’s parents. The problem is their willingness to replace Alfie’s actual parents on matters of life and death. Parenting from the bench should be more offensive than legislating from the bench.
Unfortunately, there are times when courts must intervene on behalf of children who have been abused or neglected, but only in cases when parents have been found to be unfit. In this case, there wasn’t even an accusation of unfitness. It was just a case of disagreement and the government pulling rank because, for some perverse reason, they feel like they can.
While Government serves an important purpose in community life, it is only one institution and not the most crucial.
The family does not serve the interest of the government; government exists to serve the interests of families.
In the most recently completed legislative session in Washington State, a bill was passed that will allow courts to grant visitation with another relative of a child over the objection of the parents. Proponents hope this new law will expand to allow court-mandated visitation with any third-party over the objection of the parents.
In California, Orange County Board of Education has recently clarified that parents cannot opt their children out of sex education curriculum lessons that discuss gender, gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation in ways the parents disagree with.
A national effort is underway to make it illegal for parents to get therapy for a gender dysphoric child that would help that child identify their actual gender. Even if the parents, therapists, and child all agree about the goals, politicians have taken the position that it shouldn’t be allowed.
In the state of Ohio, parents lost custody of their teenage daughter because they did not support her desire to conceal her gender and live as a boy.
Alfie’s parents have plenty of company.
In each case, the government is overruling the decisions of parents simply because they think they know better.
Governments are also attempting to control the church.
The federal government on this side of the pond has only recently stopped trying to force Catholic organizations to pay for birth control. A Christian homeless ministry in Seattle was recently sued for declining to hire someone that wouldn’t abide by their faith-based code of conduct. In California, religious, pro-life organizations have been told that they must advertise for abortion.
The First Amendment was written to ensure that government would have no say in how religious organizations operate but what we are looking at now borders on micromanagement, all from the “separation of church and state” crowd.
These bureaucracies are dangerous to our more fundamental institutions, in part, because of their good intentions.
As C.S. Lewis once wrote “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
I hope Alfie Evans and his parents are remembered for a very long time. They all fought nobly. But it really wasn’t just about a sick little boy and his family. It was a story about a government’s assault on the institution of the family.