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My colleague at the Discovery Institute, John R. Miller, has a piece in today’s New York Times on slavery. Slavery is an important matter impacting human exceptionalism that I have covered here at SHS, but not nearly enough. Thank goodness for Miller-whose work at the State Department on this issue was unremitting, and who continues his commitment in a new project being developed at the DI (of which I am a part) called the Program for Human Rights and Bioethics. He writes:

From 2002 to 2006, I led the State Department’s efforts to monitor and combat human trafficking. I felt my job was to nurture a 21st-century abolitionist movement with the United States at the lead. At times, my work was disparaged by some embassies and regional bureaus that didn’t want their host countries to be criticized. I didn’t win every battle, but the White House always made it clear that the president supported my work and thought it was important.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the Justice Department started a campaign against a new bill that would strengthen the government’s anti-human trafficking efforts. In a 13-page letter last year, the department blasted almost every provision in the new bill that would reasonably expand American anti-slavery efforts.
What? Wait, there’s more:
Should the State Department’s annual report on trafficking, which grades governments on how well they are combating modern slavery, consider whether governments put traffickers in jail? The Justice Department says no. Should the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services Departments streamline their efforts to help foreign trafficking victims get visas and care? No. Should the Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, State and Justice Departments pool their data on human trafficking to help devise strategies to prevent it? Amazingly, no.

In its letter, the Justice Department even opposes authorizing the president to create new awards for the international groups that are leading the struggle for abolition. It also doesn’t want the State Department to be required to give the names of American anti-trafficking phone lines to visa applicants at American consulates overseas. It doesn’t want a citizen task force to help develop an information pamphlet for victims.
Why on earth?
A culture clash, I suspect, is the real reason for the Justice Department’s opposition. This isn’t the usual culture clash of right and left, religious and secular. In this case, the feminist, religious and secular groups that help sex-trafficking survivors are on one side. And on the other are the department’s lawyers (most of them male), the Erotic Service Providers Union and the American Civil Liberties Union—this side believes that vast numbers of women engage in prostitution as a “profession,” by choice.

And to think I was once a “card carrying member” of the ACLU (as they say).

Miller calls on President Bush to intervene. Let us hope the president listens.

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