measures are enacted, and then justified by courts, only to createna precedent for future restrictions on liberty or constitutionalnrights. Drugs are by no means the only such area, as issuesnlike dmnk driving and child abuse have both been used in suchna way; but dmgs offer perhaps the clearest recent illustrations.nPrivate gun ownership has been one target of the cmsaders.nIt was the bootlegging era that called forth the first sweepingnstate and federal laws against the possession of particularntypes of weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.nMore recently, antigun forces have latched onto the dmgnwar as a vehicle to destroy the Second Amendment. We havenheard that semiautomatic rifles or even pistols are “the weaponnof choice of the drug dealers,” “narcoterrorist assassinationnweapons,” so naturally they must be prohibited. Absent thisnreform, there must be lengthy waiting f)eriods in which policencan check the backgrounds of prospective purchasers. It is difficultnto imagine even the antigun lobby believing that this willnmake the slightest impact on “drug violence,” if only becausendealers and urban youth gangs seldom obtain their weaponsnby legal means. However, the net effect is that cynical use ofnantidrug rhetoric has succeeded in restricting an explicit constitutionalnright.nThe First Amendment has also been under assault. In 1990,nthe Supreme Court denied the right of Indian groups tonmake use of peyote in their religious rituals (Oregon EmploymentnDivision v. Smith), an important decision that the mainstreamnpress scarcely accorded the attention it merited. Now,nit would be difficult to argue that the Republic stands or fallsnon whether one small cult can employ what it believes to bena sacrament. However, this is yet another example of the dmgnissue being used to create a very large bridgehead in civil liberties.nEvery court will hold in theory that religion cannot benregulated, or even taxed—but where dmgs are involved, normalnprinciples go by the wayside: dmgs are different. The precedentnis thus created for the regulation of other behaviorsnthat may be unpopular in particular regions or social groups.nThe ratchet turns one notch, where it remains until ready tonbe advanced in the next panic; the process seldom goes innreverse.nThe Smith case effectively reversed the classic decisionnof Sherbet v. Vemer (1963), which held that the free exercisenof religion could only be restricted if there was a compellingnpublic interest in so doing, and even that restriction must benimposed in the least onerous fashion possible. In contrast, thennew doctrine affirms that religious groups must learn to livenwith any “incidental” burdens arising from any “reasonable”nlaw, a statement that has caused near panic among churchesnand religious scholars. Smith threatens to “gut” the FirstnAmendment: it establishes the principle that religious libertynis less a right than a conditional privilege that only appliesnuntil it reaches the roadblock erected by the latest fit of publicnmorality.nWhat next? One natural consequence would be for a “dry”nstate or county to command Catholic churches to use onlynunfermented grape juice in their services. Clearly, this wouldnbe an invaluable educational tool, removing the apparent sanctionngiven by the churches to substance abuse and othernantisocial behavior. At present, there are harrowing reports ofnteenagers and children being supplied with wine, and adultnparishioners are even reported to drive shortly after sharing thenalcoholic beverage! Can such a Mothers Against Dmnk Drivingnlaw be far in the future?n16/CHRONICLESnnnAnd the peyote precedent suggests other necessary exceptionsnto outmoded constitutional liberties, other “reasonable”nlaws that might pose “incidental” problems. Withnchild abuse said to be so commonplace, surely few will objectnto far-reaching measures to safeguard the children. Already,nsuch laws have gravely undermined the privacy of conversationsnbetween clergy and parishioners in counseling settings,nand have threatened the secrecy of the confessional. Barelyna tenth of the mandatory abuse reporting laws passed duringnthe 80’s recognized clergy privilege. Furthermore, it cannotnbe long until tmly effective legislation will call a halt to the practicenof infant circumcision for ritual reasons. Catholics andnJews may object to such reforms, but this confirms oncenagain their fundamentally un-American character. How muchnbetter protected we will be without the archaic superstitionsnof the First, Second, and other Amendments.nAll prosecutors are ultimately political animals who knownthat no votes are to be lost by appearing tough on issues likendmgs and child abuse. Unfortunately, the costs of this judicialnRambo-ism are ultimately paid by individuals, and by thenlaw itself. From a great many examples in recent years, wenmight choose the cases of women who use drink or dmgs whilenpregnant, only to find themselves facing prison time for somensuch offense as “delivering narcotics to another person” (namely,nthe fetus). Some Indian reservations have seriously discussednincarcerating alcoholic women at an early stage of their pregnancy,nto curb the occurrence of “fetal alcohol syndrome” (FAS).nNow, it might appear that we have here a classic feministnissue, an example of women being regarded as communal broodmaresnon a scale paralleled only in nightmare fantasies like ThenHandmaid’s Tale, while the treatment of the early fetus as anperson goes far to subverting Roe v. Wade. In reality, feministnsilence on the issue has been deafening; but perhaps that is notnso surprising. Is anyone really prepared to speak up against lawsnthat simultaneously denounce substance abuse and childnabuse? At the same time, we have a cacophony of leamed voicesnassuring us of the scale of problems like FAS and the “cracknbaby.” Both are questionable concepts. The “crack baby”nremains a largely mythical image, a consequence of the suddenndiscovery that (regardless of drug use) poor urban womenntend to receive inferior nutrition and medical care, andnaccordingly deliver children who are punier and sicker. Withnproper care and nourishment, the babies will outgrow theseneariy problems; and the notion that crack is causing the birthnof hundreds of thousands of congenital monsters each year isnhysterical nonsense. But mere facts have seldom stood in thenway of a good legislative panic.nSurely, there is a positive side to the story. Yes, it is regrettablenthat the dmg war has its innocent bystanders, its occasionalnvictims of friendly fire, but does not the innocent citizennbenefit from a stronger justice system, from a greater degreenof law and order? This attractive argument is belied by the realitiesnof big cities, where dmg offenders have so swelled the jailsnthat robbers and burglars have had to be freed in appalling numbers.nSince the I970’s, federal courts have maintained antough attitude towards prison overcrowding, to the warehousenmentality that has created such American Gulags as NewnYork City’s Hikers Island. Many courts have ordered that whennthe jail system reaches a particular population, inmates mustnbe released, either by reducing bail to fire-sale proportions, ornactually by having the city pay offenders’ bail for them. Thisn