Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Dresses Only--A Biblical Requirement?

The Fall 2002 issue of the Home School Digest, "The Quarterly Journal for Serious Homeschoolers" (http://www.wisgate.com/hsd.htm) included a lengthy (8-page) article in which the author "argued" (in a way) that the Bible teaches women to wear long dresses and to avoid pants; "pants are men's clothing."

I decided to write a response, of sorts.

Why? Because I am concerned about a tendency I think I'm seeing where we Christians seem to use the Scriptures NOT to discover what they really teach (or DON'T teach) but, rather, to figure out ways to justify our own prejudices and preferences. . . .

Letter to the Editor of
Home School Digest
sent via email 7 November 2002

Dear Friends:

I try to conduct my affairs as the Bereans: to "receive the word with all readiness of mind" while searching the Scriptures to see whether a matter is really "so" (Acts 17:11). And so it was with this attitude that I read Dr. Davis' "The Language of the Christian's Clothing" (Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 39-46).

Having examined the Scriptures Dr. Davis references in that article, I believe it is appropriate to warn your readers that, while he proclaims many things that ARE "so," the majority of the content of points 6 through 8--what seemed to be at the center of his presentation--appear to be rather well REFUTED by Scripture. Indeed, they seem well refuted by some of the very Scriptures to which Dr. Davis REFERS but fails to quote in full.

I am thinking, especially, of Exodus 28:42, 39:27-28, Leviticus 6:10, 16:4, and Ezekiel 44:18.

On p. 43 Dr. Davis fails to quote any of these verses but he does quote Cathy Corle to the effect that "God directed for a man to wear pants or breeches and a short haircut." Dr. Davis does not quote Corle concerning where IN SCRIPTURE she believes we might find such directives; nor does he offer any scriptural proofs himself for these claims. But he DOES say that the five passages listed above are the only places in the Bible where the word "breeches" occurs and "[t]he word is always used in relation to men."

By placing these comments in juxtaposition with Deuteronomy 22:5 ("The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God"--quoted on p. 43 in your magazine), Dr. Davis seems to want us to believe that God Himself teaches us that pants (or "breeches") are uniquely men’s wear not to be worn by women.

If I have interpreted Dr. Davis' intentions correctly, then I believe we need to look at the Scriptures to which he has referred. We should see for ourselves: is this "men ought to wear pants/women ought to wear dresses" teaching truly based on SCRIPTURE?

If you study the referenced passages, I believe you will find it is not. Instead, you will discover that Dr. Davis is "lad[ing] men [and women!] with burdens grievous to be borne," burdens that Dr. Davis himself, when it comes down to it, "touch[es] not . . . with one of [his] fingers" (Luke 11:46).

Will you please join me and be like the Bereans? Will you please turn "to [God’s] law and to [His] testimony" (Isaiah 8:20) and see if these things are really so?


The referenced passages, as Dr. Davis notes, are, indeed, the only ones in which the English word "breeches" appears in the King James Version of the Bible. But if Dr. Davis wants to make these passages teach that all men, and only men, are to wear breeches, then I wonder why he did not go further into these passages' details? Why, for example, did he ignore the point that every one of the referenced passages speaks not merely about "breeches," but about "LINEN breeches"? If we men are to wear breeches in obedience to these passages, shouldn’t we be sure to wear only LINEN breeches? If not, why not?

Further, why does Dr. Davis ignore the fact that the breeches spoken of in these passages are not commanded as OUTER wear, but are to be worn IN ADDITION to--UNDER--a "robe" and "coat" (see Exodus 28:4, 31-35 and 39 for just one series of verses that describe these garments)? They were not to be worn like the pants in a modern man’s suit; they were not to be visible to the eyes of curious bystanders. No. They were to be worn UNDER the outer robe and coat, "upon [the] flesh" (Leviticus 16:4). Put another way, they were what we call "underwear."

So why does it appear that Dr. Davis is willing to expose himself to public view clad in nothing more than a modern man’s suit, wearing upon his lower body the equivalent of what the Bible defines as UNDERWEAR? Why does he not wrap himself in what, to be consistent, he should be telling us are God-mandated outer garments for men?

And how does he dare show on the home page of his website (www.drsmdavis.com) photographs of men attired in the equivalent of Biblically-defined UNDERWEAR? Where are the photographs of men wearing the Biblically-mandated robes--the kind of robes with which, Dr. Davis says, true men were taught to "gird up their loins" (p. 43; Job 40:7, etc.)?

Let us go on.

If Dr. Davis' comments about breeches are the result of handling the Scriptures with integrity, and if such breeches-style clothing on a woman really is an "abomination" because it is "that which pertaineth unto a man" (Deuteronomy 22:5), then why does he not speak forthrightly about the sin of modern breeches-style WOMEN'S underwear--i.e., what in our culture are generally called "panties"? Is he not concerned to warn women against such sins?

And why no exegesis about how both men and women must clothe themselves with underwear that covers "from the loins even unto the thighs" so they will avoid the nakedness of which Exodus 28:42 speaks (according to Dr. Davis), the nakedness of inadequate underwear, the nakedness that is both mentioned and defined in Exodus 28:42 (p. 40 in Dr. Davis' article)?

Moreover, how is it that Dr. Davis turns this Biblical discussion of what is obviously UNDER-breeches into a discussion of "shorts, culottes, dresses, whatever"--OUTER garments--"that stops covering above the knee"?

And why? Why does he make an application to forms of clothing (OUTER clothing) that are NOT discussed in the passage, but makes NO application to that which is directly addressed (the matter of UNDER clothing)?

And there is more.

If Dr. Davis is correct in his interpretation and application of these passages, then I am curious why he ignores the fact that, in the very same passages, the LORD commands us men to wear linen BONNETS (Exodus 28:40, 29:9, 39:28, Leviticus 8:13, and Ezekiel 44:18). And, again, if Dr. Davis is correct in his interpretation, the LORD commands us MEN to wear such bonnets, but NOWHERE does He issue a similar commandment to women.

So why does it appear (from an examination of his photograph) that Dr. Davis fails to obey this command? And why does Dr. Davis not warn women against being conformed to the world in this area (see Romans 12:2)? Why does he fail even to MENTION (much less sound a clarion call) that bonnets are masculine clothing and not to be worn by women?

Similarly with the girdles. If we men--and only men--are supposed to wear breeches, I don’t understand why Dr. Davis ignores the Scripturally-mandated girdles for men (Exodus 28:40, 29:9, Leviticus 8:13). Once more: there is not a single verse in Scripture commanding WOMEN to wear girdles; but we do find these verses where, according to Dr. Davis, MEN are commanded to wear them. So why does Dr. Davis ignore this command? And why does he not warn women against encroaching on this province of masculine clothing?

I believe the answers to all of my questions are one and the same; and that one answer is really quite simple.

I believe the reason Dr. Davis ignores all of these "additional" requirements; the reason he himself refuses to "touch" these commandments with one of his own fingers (i.e., the reason he neither "obeys" nor teaches these commandments), is because as soon as one looks at the subject Scriptures IN CONTEXT, one realizes that they have everything to do with appropriate attire for God’s Old Testament PRIESTS (see, for example, Exodus 28:43, 29:27, Leviticus 6:9-10, 16:3, and Ezekiel 44:15); they have absolutely nothing to say about appropriate attire for "men" in general. Yes, the priests were all men, but the focus of these verses is the PRIESTS' clothing and the PRIESTS' responsibilities. Their focus is not at all upon the distinctions we ought to observe between men’s clothing and women’s clothing.


In sum: rather than suggesting that the Bible "TEACHES" women to wear long dresses (KATASTOLE); rather than suggesting that breeches are for men only; perhaps Dr. Davis and your fine magazine could emphasize and exegete Scriptures that truly teach the more fundamental principles outlined (but hardly explained) in the article's other "points": the need for modesty and humility; the need to conform ourselves to the image of Christ; the need to bring our outer and inner clothing (the clothing of the heart) into conformity one with another; and so forth.

For the glory of Christ among the nations,

John Holzmann

Monday, January 12, 2004


One of those "dirty secrets" that few schools mention, but that ought to be mentioned by all.

People refer to "the" Holocaust as if it were a unique historical event inspired by a solitary madman named Adolf Hitler (may his name forever be disgraced). Of course, this preoccupation with Hitler means that far bloodier tyrants of the 20th Century--Joseph Stalin and Mao Zadong being only the two most infamous--are readily ignored. (It is always unfashionable to offer any forms of apologetics for Nazi Germany; it is rarely unfashionable to forge "explanations" and apologies for Mao and Stalin.)

I am distressed by the historical myopia that would cause us to focus so uniquely on the one man and the one country or culture, that we would ignore other people and other cultures, and, most especially, our own people and our own culture.

You see, Americans and Britons seem to have completely forgotten our own nations' roles in the "scientific" theories that led directly to the events that we know of as "the" Holocaust. Yes, “Christian” America—the United States—set the legal precedents and standards by which Hitler carried out his deadly policies.

In 1916 Scribners published Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race, a defense of the idea that “the Nordic race” is superior to all others. That was followed by, and continued to be published alongside, Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy. Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman followed in 1922.1

You should know: these were widely-read “scientific” books of the day. They advocated the application of Darwinian evolutionary “science” in public policy. And so, rather than serving as a Christian “light to the nations,”
The United States became the model for pre-Nazi German racial hygienists after World War I. The Nazis merely applied on a massive scale a program that their liberal predecessors had recommended.2
Does that sound far-fetched—laying Nazi policies at the doorstep of America? Possibly. But consider.

In 1904—only 45 years after Darwin published his famous The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life—a “Station for the Experimental Study of Evolution” was established in the United States with a grant from the Carnegie Institution. In 1910, the Harriman and Rockefeller families contributed a “Eugenics Record Office” to the Station.3

Grant, Stoddard, Henry Fairfield Osborn, the Rockefellers, the Harrimans, and countless other leaders of American opinion, policy and culture, advocated and advanced a public policy of eugenics.

How did this work out in practice?

In 1907, Indiana passed the first compulsory sterilization law in America. States passed laws against marriages between people who were “eugenically unfit.” By the late 1920’s, 28 states had passed compulsory sterilization laws; some 15,000 Americans had been sterilized before 1930. This figure rose by another 15,000 over the next decade. . . . This was also the era of laws against interracial marriage; 30 states passed such laws between 1915 and 1930. . . .

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell (1927), upheld Virginia’s model sterilization law, which was carried out on 19-year-old Carrie Buck. By a vote of 8 to 1, the Court upheld this before the girl was sterilized; her guardian had opposed the action. . . . The Court’s opinion, written by justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, announced: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”4

Notice that every one of these historical events occurred before Hitler came to power and before the German laws against sterilization were stricken from the books.5

Wrote Grant in 1916:
Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community. The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race.6
And Osborn, president of the Museum of Natural History in New York and professor of zoology at Columbia University, announced at the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held at the Museum of Natural History:

The right of the state to safeguard the character and integrity of the race or races on which its future depends is, to my mind, as incontestable as the right of the state to safeguard the health and morals of its people. As science has enlightened government in the prevention and spread of disease, it must also enlighten government in the prevention of the spread and multiplication of worthless members of society, the spread of feeble-mindedness, of idiocy, and of all moral and intellectual as well as physical diseases.7
Few Christians, and even fewer churches, were willing to speak out against these ideas and governmental policies.

“Buck v. Bell generally stimulated either favorable, cautious, or—most commonly—no comment. Few if any newspapers took notice of the impact of the decision on civil liberties in the United States.”8

1 Both Grant’s work and Stoddard’s Revolt Against Civilization were translated and published in Germany in 1925. Back to article.

2 Gary North, Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 447. Back to article.

3 Walter Truett Anderson, To Govern Evolution: Further Adventures of the Political Animal (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987), 153, cited in North, op. cit., 445. Back to article.

4 North, op. cit., 446. Back to article.

5 The influence of the eugenics movement in Germany accelerated after Hitler came to power in 1933. Sterilization had been illegal in Germany prior to Hitler; he changed the law in July, 1933. Two million people were ordered sterilized by the Nazis’ Eugenics Courts as eugenically unfit, 1933 to 1945.

In 1939, the year of the “Duty to be Healthy,” the Nazi program of sterilization went to the next phase: “mercy killings” of mentally and physically handicapped people who were incarcerated in hospitals and mental asylums. One estimate is that some 200,000 people were killed in this way during World War II. Physicians superintended the massacre. . . . The Nazis understood in 1939 what the humanist media in the United States had understood in 1922: churches could have become a major threat to their genetic ideal and program of forced sterilization for genetic purposes. As it turned out in both countries, however, churches remained mute on the issue.

—North, op. cit., 447-448.
Back to article.

6 Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, 4th ed., revised (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1921), 49, quoted in North, op. cit., 444. Back to article.

7 Allan Chase, The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism (New York: Knopf, 1977), 278, quoted in North, op. cit., 448-449. Back to article.

8 Daniel V. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (New York: Knopf, 1985), 112, quoted in North, op. cit., 447.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

More on Eliminating the Concept of Purpose in Science

I mentioned Jacques Barzun's comments about the historical movement that eliminated the concept of purpose in scientific inquiry. Today I was reminded of some more historical data that contributed to the elimination of this concept.

In an audio summary of a recent business book, It’s Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business by Christopher Meyer and Stan Davis, I was startled to hear the following three sentences:
Adam Smith wrote that people follow their own self-interest, which leads to the greatest good for all. Charles Darwin's rule says that species adapt or die. That's the meaning of the term "selective pressure."
I was startled by the obvious juxtaposition of Smith's and Darwin's ideas. But the two ideas mesh perfectly. Isn't Smith's concept of the "'invisible hand' of the marketplace" (in which large-scale public good is the inescapable, unintentional, and wholly unconscious by-product of laissez-faire capitalism) . . . --Isn't that "merely," in the social and economic sphere, what Darwin's concept of "natural selection" is in the scientific/biological sphere?

Now that I think of it, weren't the "social Darwinians" in essence turning Darwin's ideas back to their intellectual and historical predecessor: Adam Smith?

Again: this should have been so obvious. I have considered these ideas before in various ways.
  • Gary North, in Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996) points out that William Jennings Bryan's objections to the teaching of evolution in public schools was motivated not by scientific concerns, per se, but by social concerns:
    [While, on the positive side, Bryan argued that democracy gave taxpayers the right to control how their funds should be used, he argued] that a ruth-less hostility to charity was the dark side of Darwin-ism. Had Darwin’s theory been irrelevant, he said, it would have been harmless. “This hypothesis, however, . . . teaches that Christianity impairs the race physically. That was the first implication at which I revolted [when I read Darwin’s work]. It led me to review the doctrine and reject it entirely” (from William Jennings Bryan, In His Image (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1922), 107). [Bryan] cited the notorious (and morally inescapable) passage in Darwin’s Descent of Man: “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have suc-cumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man” (Ibid., 107-108). [Bryan] could have continued to quote from the passage until the end of the paragraph: “It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed” (Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (New York: Modern Library, [1871], 501). . . .

    Darwin in the next paragraph wrote that sympathy, “the noblest part of our nature,” leads men to do these racially debilitating things (Ibid., 502). Bryan replied: “Can that doctrine be accepted as scientific when its author admits that we cannot apply it ‘without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature’? On the contrary, civilization is measured by the moral revolt against the cruel doctrine developed by Darwin” (Bryan, op. cit., 109).

    Darwin was taken very seriously by many Pro-gressives on the matter of charity. In her book, The Pivot of Civilization (1922), Margaret Sanger [founder of Planned Parenthood] criticized the inherent cruelty of charity. She insisted that organized efforts to help the poor are the “surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding, and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents, and dependents” (Sanger, op. cit., 108). Such charity must be stopped, she insisted. . . . “If we must have welfare, give it to the rich, not the poor,” she concluded (Ibid., 96). “More children from the fit, less from the unfit: that is the chief issue of birth control” (Sanger, "Birth Control," Birth Control Review (May 1919).

    --From North, op. cit., pp. 453-455.

  • David M. Levy in his fascinating How the Dismal Science Got Its Name (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2002) notes, too, how modern economic theory (i.e., economics post-Smith) interfaced with was borne along by--and bore with it--a social Darwinian view.
I don't know where I want to go from here. Primarily I wanted to make the observation that Smithian economics goes hand-in-hand, intellectually and historically, with evolutionary thought, both biological and social.

I guess I would like to make one more observation, this one coming, too, from the audio tape that inspired my comments here.

I am impressed with how theories of purposeless, "self-organization" (such as Smith's and Darwin's) are being turned to practical ends.

In the audio summary of Meyer's and Davis's It's Alive, I heard the story of a John Deere factory that makes seed planters.

The company uses a computer to create a few random schedules that express the sequence of planters to be built in a digital code made of zeros and ones. That code is a set of instructions, just as DNA carries a set of instructions as "genetic code."

This is possible because of a genetic algorithm. A genetic algorithm is a computer program that simulates the same sort of breeding and evolution that appears to take place in nature. The program can test millions of examples of a production schedule using a simulator. It identifies the schedules that work the best, kills the rest, and then mixes parts of the winning schedules to create new ones. In essence, it breeds new schedules. Then the new ones are tested, and so on. Forty thousand new schedules are tested every night, and the winner is the schedule that runs tomorrow's real-life production on the John Deere factory floor. . . .

In using genetic algorithms to set its factory schedule, John Deere applied two evolutionary concepts. One was the idea of recombination, which is known as breeding in the animal world. The other was to exert selective pressure. . . .

In the John Deere example, a schedule that speeds things up is rewarded by allowing it to breed with other fast schedules. A schedule that is slow dies off without breeding.

The cycle repeats through successive generations, and the agents undergo changes and evolve — in this case, getting faster. In life, the change of one species depends on the change of others. Fast foxes help breed faster rabbits. This is often called co-evolution.

--Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries, Volume 12, No. 7, Section 1, July 2003.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

The Madness of the American Drug War

I'm apparently "strange" for a conservative Christian, but the more I study the issue, the angrier I become: What business does the U.S. federal government have in declaring certain drugs illegal . . . and then seeking to enforce its will by violent means? If you're a Bible-believing Christian, I'd like to ask you: what biblical justification can you think of for governmental behavior like that which I'm about to relate to you?

I found the following story referenced in a December 23, 2003 editorial by
Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado, and a regular columnist in the Rocky Mountain News.. . .

Campos said his editorial was inspired by
a story featured in The New York Times about a drug raid at the Goose Creek, South Carolina, high school on November 5, 2003 . . . and by a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 8th.

Let me begin with the Goose Creek High School story. Campos summarizes:

With guns pointed at their heads, students were handcuffed and forced to lie on the floor, or to kneel with their faces to the wall.

One student said he assumed the police "were trying to protect us, that it was like Columbine, that somebody got in the school that was crazy or dangerous. But then a police officer pointed a gun at me. It was really scary."

"After an extensive search," Campos says, "the police found no drugs, but they did terrorize more than 100 students."

I'd want to suggest that they not only terrorized more than 100 students; they put these and other students' lives at risk. And for what? Is the Goose Creek high school a better place, now, as a result of the police raid? Supposing the police had found drugs on one or more of the students: was the implicit (or even explicit) danger of those drugs worth putting 100 or more students' lives at risk?

"What's really scary," Campos notes, "is that incidents such as this seem to stir so little outrage.

What level of government persecution will put a dent in public apathy about the madness that is the war on drugs? If the police at the Goose Creek high school had inadvertently shot a student or two in their zealous search for marijuana cigarettes, would that be enough to distract people from holiday shopping and channel surfing? Or would such an incident be shrugged off as another regrettable accident, of the sort that is inevitable in wartime?

As I said, Campos referenced not only the events at Goose Creek, but a bill he said was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, "a bill that gives the White House drug czar's office $145 million of taxpayer money to run anti-marijuana propaganda ads."

Besides paying for ads (many of which he finds rather preposterous: "My personal favorite . . . is a television ad in which police rough up a high school student when arresting him in the school's marijuana-smoke-filled bathroom. This is followed by a caption reading, 'Marijuana: Harmless? Think again.'"), the most egregious portion of the bill, says Campos, "prohibits any local transit system that receives federal funding from running privately funded ads that call for marijuana policy reform.

In other words, at the same time that the federal government is forcing you to spend your money to publicize its willingness to engage in storm trooper tactics to persecute the tens of millions Americans who smoke marijuana, it is trying to prohibit you from having the freedom to spend your money to protest these same tactics. [All above quotes are from Campos' editorial, "A new reefer madness".]

Lest you think I'm a nut case who is bent on debauching our youth, let me make clear that I am a teetotaler (i.e., I don’t drink alcohol; I am a “total abstainer”). Indeed, I don’t drink coffee, either. I have never used any “hard” or illegal drugs. (Although I believe I have probably committed the felonious behavior of ingesting one or two antibiotic pills that the doctor had prescribed to someone else in my family while I waited to get lab tests to confirm what I was already quite sure was true: that I was suffering from the exact same malady that had struck the other person.)

So why do I harp on federal drug laws?

Because I see no biblical ground for turning a moral issue into a legal one; and I see no extrabiblical (i.e., merely practical) reasons for creating the kind of monstrous police state under which we labor today “just because” some people are unable or unwilling to control their urges to medicate themselves for physical or mental reasons.

Strange: there are strong reasons to believe that even the “bad” drugs like heroin and cocaine are nowhere near as “bad” as government propaganda has led most of us to believe. Far more people use even these “bad” drugs without becoming addicted than use them and become addicted. And far more people use them and continue to live productive lives than use them and, as a result, become antisocial. (How many people do you know who are physically dependent on the addictive drug caffeine and act in antisocial ways as a result of their addictions? Do you believe they deserve to be imprisoned or even put to death for their nefarious behavior?)

I encourage you to see
Jacob Sullum’s “The surprising truth about heroin and addiction,” in Reason magazine, June 2003, 32-40.

Comments? Criticisms? What am I missing?


Don't you think they ought to be put to death? If not, why not? Twenty-seven Republican members of the 104th Congress of the United States signed on as cosponsors of legislation that would have required anyone in the United States who was convicted of owning two ounces or more of marijuana to be executed for their crime. . . . (See
"Death Penalty for Two Ounces of Marijuana!" and its sister document, "Co-Sponsors of H.R. 4170".) Back to article.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Are virtually all high school students to be precluded from working for pay?

There is a a horrible new bill before the House of Representatives titled the "Youth Worker Protection Act," HR3139. If it makes its way through Congress, I believe we're about to see virtually all students under 18 become wholly unemployable.

Am I overreacting? Consider just a few of the most egregious provisions of the bill:

* Outlaw the use of riding lawn mowers for purposes of earning income by all youths under 18 who have yet to graduate from high school.

* Outlaw the use in an employment context of ladders over 6 feet tall by youths under 18.

* Outlaw any handling of fat used in deep fat fryers--whether the fat is hot or cold, it does not matter--by youths under 18.

* Potentially outlaw the employment of anyone under 18 years old in ANY place of employment where any of the above-mentioned equipment or materials may be located.

* Outlaw all "youth peddling" (i.e., going door-to-door for any sales purpose if you're under 18 years old) unless selling newspapers or soliciting in behalf of a nonprofit organization).

. . . And so forth.

Oh! And if you attend a private school or you're homeschooled: guess who controls your employability? Yes: your local public school district!

Does it surprise you to hear that the NEA (National Education Association), AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations), and other such organizations are all proud of this legislation?

Right now the bill is "in committee" (Committee on Education and the Workforce and, more especially, the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections). However, since no public hearings are planned, it could come out of committee at any moment once Congress is back in session beginning January 20th. I believe, if we want our younger children to have any opportunity to get jobs before they are 18, we may need to raise a hue and cry. . . .

Please confirm each of my following points by looking at the original documents. You can find them in the last link ("Text of Legislation") at
http://snipurl.com/HR3139. There's a PDF version (upper left) and an HTML version (upper right). Am I reading the bill correctly?

Section 201(3) requires all minors to get government-sponsored work permits. Section 203(b)(3) specifies that the form shall include, "In the case of a school-age minor, a certification by a school official that the official has informed the minor of school attendance requirements and has given the minor a written summary of those requirements" and Section 203(e) continues, "A work permit that is issued when school is not in session shall be subject to certification under subsection (b)(3) not later than 30 days after school resumes. If the minor does not obtain certification during that period, the permit shall be suspended until the certification is obtained. As used in this subsection, the term 'in session' has the meaning given that term under the law applicable to the school district in which the minor involved lives." [Put another way: your local public school is the de facto permitting agency. Your homeschooled child, if s/he wants to work before s/he reaches the age of 18, will now be required to get the local public school's permission. Put another way: your child's ability to hold a job will be wholly at the discretion of your local public school district and its schedule.]

Section 209 defines the term "minor" as "an individual who is under the age of 18 years." And it defines a "school-age minor" as "a minor who, as determined under the law applicable to the school district in which the minor lives, has not earned a high school diploma or other document of equivalent or greater status."

Section 204 prohibits an employer from "permit[ting] a school-age minor to work during school hours. . . . As used in this section, the terms 'school hours', 'school day', and 'in session', respectively, have the meanings given those terms under the law applicable to the school district in which the minor involved lives." [Placing upon the employer the necessity to uphold the monopoly status of the local public schools and the local public schools' schedules.]

Section 207 prohibits "Youth Peddling." In a new proposed "Title I--Fair Labor Standards," Sec. 106 defines the term:
'Youth peddling' means sale of goods or services by a minor in a public place . . . , at the residence of the customer, at the place of business of the customer, or from a vehicle, except that such term does not include--
(1) newspaper delivery . . . ;

(2) sale of goods or services at a fixed retail location; or

(3) sale of goods or services on behalf of an organization that is described in section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of such Code, if the minor is a volunteer and does not receive compensation for the sale.
[Hmmm! Mom had better not begin a business like Ralph Moody's mom did in Little Britches (or was it Man of the Family?)! . . . Notice, however, that, despite the "dangers" this law is supposed to protect kids from, it permits use of children by public schools and other non-profit organizations to achieve their ends. Kids "simply" can't go ahead and engage in pecuniary pursuits for their own or their family's benefit. . . . ]

Besides the new "Title I," this bill also seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 201 et seq.) by inserting several "Miscellaneous Provisions" in "Title II." For example:

Section 201 states that "Not later than 24 months after the date of the enactment of this section, the Secretary of Labor shall promulgate a rule . . . that . . . in the application and enforcement of the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 201 et seq.), . . . (1) the occupations that are the subjects of recommendations pertaining to current hazardous orders, as stated in part IV of the report entitled `National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommendations to the U.S. Department of Labor for Changes to Hazardous Orders', dated May 3, 2002; and (2) the occupations that are the subjects of recommendations for new hazardous orders, as stated in part V of that report . . . [are] particularly hazardous for the employment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 years or detrimental to their health or well-being, within the meaning of section 3(l)(2) of that Act (29 U.S.C. 203(l)(2))." [I will quote from the NIOSH report below.]

Section 201(d) includes the following specific rules:
(1) . . . the rule may not provide for employment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 years in the operation of power-driven meat and food slicers in the wholesale, retail, or services industry;

(2) the rule may not allow for the operation of counter-top models of power-driven bakery machines, as proposed in the part IV recommendation HO 11 for Non-Agricultural Occupations. . . .
[I guess a bread slicer is too dangerous for a young person.]

But pay special attention to paragraphs 1) and 2) on page 42 of the NIOSH regulations referenced above (p. 64 within the
NIOSH PDF), where the authors suggest, with respect to HO 10:
1) . . . Revising this HO to apply to specific industries instead of occupations or tasks would greatly simplify compliance and enforcement of the HO, and may be a more effective way of protecting youth. The current HO prohibits seven specific types of work associated with meat slaughtering and processing, and may not be all-inclusive of tasks and activities with serious injury and health risks in these industries.

2) Although the title of HO 10 implies that it is limited to meat processing machines, this HO actually includes all occupations involved in the operation, feeding, set-up, adjusting, repairing, oiling, or cleaning of numerous power-driven food processing machines, regardless of the product being processed (including, for example, the slicing in a retail delicatessen of meat, poultry, seafood, bread, vegetables, or cheese). Machines covered include meat and bone cutting saws, meat slicers, and grinders. Available data demonstrate that some types of food processing machines, specifically grinders and juice, oil and fat extractors, are associated with serious injuries, including amputations. Although data show high numbers of injuries associated with power-driven slicers, the injuries appear to be relatively minor. This finding supports the revision of the HO to allow operation of slicers in the retail, wholesale and services industries. [Emphasis added; JAH]

On the other hand, note 3 does say, "A student learner/apprenticeship exemption is recommended for the use of meat processing machines in non-manufacturing settings. Compared with meat processing machines used in manufacturing, those used in settings such as retail establishments are smaller, less complex machines. Hazards associated with these machines are generally limited to the machines themselves, and may be reduced through worker training and proper guarding and maintenance." . . . So maybe there's hope yet!

Section 203:
Not later than 24 months after the date of the enactment of this section, the Secretary of Labor shall promulgate a rule, under section 553 of title 5, United States Code, to prohibit employment of minors in the following activities:

(1) Seafood processing.

(2) Employment requiring a minor to handle or dispose of oil or other liquids from fryers.

[Hmmm! Might this affect employment in a McDonald's (for instance)? . . . Remember notes 1 and 2 on p. 42 in the NIOSH document!]

Of course, you and I are supposed to believe that all these rules have nothing but our children's welfare in mind!


Remember that Section 201 states that "the Secretary of Labor shall promulgate a rule . . . that . . . the occupations that are the subjects of recommendations pertaining to current hazardous orders, as stated in part IV of the [NIOSH] report . . . and (2) the occupations that are the subjects of recommendations for new hazardous orders, as stated in part V of that report . . . [are] particularly hazardous for the employment of children between the ages of 16 and 18 years."

So let's see what the NIOSH report has to say.

You can find the entire report online at

From the Preamble:
Our society places special value on young people and has adopted various social policies, including protection from hazardous working conditions. Implicit in these policies is the belief that youth should not be exposed to the same risks as adults. "The vulnerable, formative, and malleable nature of childhood and adolescence requires a higher standard of protection for young workers than that accorded to adult workers" [NRC/IOM 1998]. Recommendations made in this report are consistent with the DOL commitment to facilitate meaningful employment and training opportunities while protecting youth from the most hazardous work activities. (p. 15)

Let us see how well this "balance" is maintained. Consider the following proposed "Recommendations for New Hazardous Orders" (Section V, beginning at p. 99; emphasis added; I will emphasize modified hazardous orders that are already in place below these new recommended orders). It appears that Hazardous Orders (HOs) mean, essentially, "no youths shall be employed in such tasks" (see Section 201(4) of this bill: "In the case of a minor who is between the ages of 16 and 18 years, the employment is not in an occupation that is particularly hazardous for the employment of children between those ages or detrimental to their health or well-being, within the meaning of section 3(l)(2)."
  • "Establish a new HO for work in commercial fishing occupations. An apprentice/student learner exemption is not recommended" (p. 99).
  • "Establish a new HO prohibiting all work in construction occupations. . . . An apprentice/student learner exemption is not recommended" (p. 101).
  • "Establish a new HO prohibiting work in refuse collection. An apprentice/student learner exemption is not recommended" (p. 106).
  • "Establish a new HO prohibiting work in water transportation industries. No apprentice/student learner exemption is recommended" (p. 108).
  • "Establish a new HO prohibiting work in the farm-product raw materials wholesale trade industry (SIC 515). No apprentice/student learner exemption is recommended" (p. 112").
  • "Establish a new HO for nonagricultural occupations prohibiting work at a height of 6 feet or more from ladders; scaffolds; trees; and structures . . . and machinery. An apprentice/student learner exemption is not recommended" (p. 114; put another way: forget any painting jobs for young people under 18 years of age that require use of ladders; or employment at a place like Home Depot, Costco, Old Navy, etc.--in other words, just about any retail establishment--where they have those stepladder appliances to get materials from upper shelves).
  • "Establish a new HO for nonagricultural industries prohibiting operating a tractor or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such a tractor. An apprentice/student learner exemption is justified, with the condition that tractors must be equipped with ROPS and seat belt use mandated" (p. 119; "tractor" seems clearly to include riding lawnmowers).
  • "Establish a new HO for nonagricultural industries prohibiting work in welding" (p. 124).
  • "Establish a new HO for nonagricultural industries prohibiting work involving powered conveyors in manufacturing. The HO should cover operation, repair, and maintenance of conveyors, as well as cleanup duties in the vicinity of conveyors that are in operation or energized. No apprentice/student learner exemption is recommended" (p. 130; I hope warehouses won't be included in the definition of "manufacturing," otherwise Sonlight won't be able to hire any more high school or first-year college students to work in its warehouse; we have slow-moving power conveyors to help move materials from our ground floor to a mezzanine storage area (and back again); we also have powered roller conveyors to move packed boxes from the packing stations to the shipping area. . . . So this equipment that we purchased to REDUCE injury may actually preclude us from hiring young people!).
And here are the recommended modifications to HOs that are already on the books:

HO 16 (non-agricultural): Occupations in Roofing Operations

Recommendation — 1) Expand current HO to include all work performed on roofs. The HO should not be limited solely to roofing operations that involve construction, maintenance, and repair of roofs. 2) Remove the exemption for apprentices/student learners. (See pp. 60ff)

HO 1 (agricultural): Operating a Tractor Over 20 PTO Horsepower or Connecting or Disconnecting an Implement or Any of Its Parts To or from Such a Tractor.

Recommendation — 1) Retain the HO with the removal of the 20 PTO (power take-off) horsepower threshold. 2) Revise exemption for 14- and 15-year-olds with tractor certification to require tractors to be equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) and mandate the use of seatbelts.

Rationale — 1) Tractor-related fatalities have been the leading source of work-related farming deaths in the U.S. for many years. Available data sources frequently do not include enough detail to determine the horsepower of tractors or PTOs involved in fatal and non-fatal injuries. Additionally, PTO horsepower differs from tractor engine horsepower and may be difficult to identify by Wage and Hour inspectors, employers, supervisors and youth workers. Furthermore, available data do not support the notion that a tractor’s horsepower (engine or PTO) is related to risk of injury. Therefore, the current 20 horsepower PTO requirement should be eliminated. 2) A ROPS, when used in conjunction with a seatbelt, is the most important safety feature on a tractor in reducing the number of deaths from overturns. This engineering safety measure, in addition to tractor safety training and mandated seatbelt use, should be an effective means of preventing a substantial number of tractor-related injuries and fatalities among young workers. (See pp. 67ff)

HO 2 (agricultural): Operating or assisting to operate (including starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding or any other activity involving physical contact associated with the operation) any of the following machines:

i) Corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, . . . ;

ii) Feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, . . . or

iii) Power post-hole digger, power post driver, or nonwalking-type rotary tiller.

HO 3: Operating or assisting to operate . . . any of the following machines:

i) Trencher or earthmoving equipment;

ii) Fork lift;

iii) . . .

Recommendation – Combine HO 2 and HO 3, and expand prohibition from lists of specific machines to machines that perform general functions (e.g. harvesting and threshing machinery; mowing machinery; . . . and, mobile equipment, including forklifts) following the terminology used in current coding systems. (See pp. 72ff; does this mean no one under the age of 18 will be permitted to do lawn mowing, using a power lawn mower? I note that Table 21 "Fatal Injuries to Agricultural Production Workers Associated with Agricultural and Garden Machinery, United States" on p. 73 specifically includes injuries due not only to "Mowing machinery, unspecified" but "Lawn mowers – riding.")

HO 6: Working from a Ladder or Scaffold (Painting, Repairing, or Building Structures, Pruning Trees, Picking Fruit, etc.) at a Height of Over 20 Feet.

Recommendation – . . . Reduce the maximum height at which youth under 16 may work in these settings from 20 feet to 6 feet.

Rationale – . . . Available fatality data for workers of all ages suggest that permitting youth to work at heights of up to 20 feet is not sufficiently protective. . . . (See pp. 79ff; does this mean no one under the age of 16 will be permitted to paint a house at a height greater than 6 feet? Will parents who involve their children in such tasks be subject to charges of child abuse?)

Questions: Do you think all these rules are REALLY for the protection of young people? Or are they primarily for the benefit of union members? And . . . if these jobs are truly too dangerous, when and where and how will any 18-year-old gain the experience s/he requires so that s/he doesn't get injured on the job?

So what should you and I do about these things?
  • Pray.
  • Write to or call your congressperson to get rid of the offending provisions.
  • Go back to the first page I referenced above (http://snipurl.com/HR3139). Click on the "Cosponsors" link and write to or call the committee people along the same lines.

Two key contact persons:
The Honorable Charlie Norwood
Chairman, Workforce Protection Subcommittee
Room 2452 Rayburn House Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20515


The Honorable John Boehner
Chairman, Committee on Education & the Workforce
Room 2181 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515

Some potentially unfamiliar acronyms:

  • BLS = Bureau of Labor Standards.
  • DOL = Department of Labor.
  • FTEs = Full-time equivalents (i.e., 40-hour weeks; explanation: lots of kids work only 10 or 20 hours per week; a full-time equivalent is 40 hours per week; thus, while four kids may be employed at 10 hours each, the four, together, equal only one FTE).
  • HOs = "Hazardous Orders" (government regulations concerning occupations and tasks that the government has determined are especially hazardous).
  • ROPS = "Roll-over protection structure" (a full "roll cage" to protect the driver/occupant of a vehicle in case the vehicle flips over).