“A dog’s obeyed in office,” and the power of the welfare state to grab your money, property, health, and—through “no-fault” divorce—your children, too, is already bad enough. Now it is getting worse, via the usurpation of punitive court prerogatives by bureaucrats whose sole purpose is “revenue enhancement” and the growth of the state. The case in point here is Massachusetts, where social-service “providers” and “caregivers” increasingly assume the task of fleecing and/or jailing taxpaying citizens.

Armed with legal immunity, bureaucrats are winning the right to fine, incarcerate, hospitalize, and drug people at whim, subsidizing these depredations with tax and insurance monies. Take, for example, section 12, as it is commonly known, a Massachusetts statute. Enacted in 1970, section 12 enables a psychiatrist to have a citizen incarcerated for ten days if the doctor believes that “serious harm” might otherwise ensue. This standard may be variously defined or merely indicated by check marks on a pink form.

Several years ago. Lifeline Ambulance Service of Lynn, Massachusetts, had police break down the door of an elderly woman who had been “pink papered.” The cops and orderlies dragged her down the steps of her apartment building. Her bladder burst, and she had a heart attack. A jury found the city guilty and awarded a $1.3 million judgment, but in 1996, an appeals court overturned this decision, ruling that the action had not violated the dead woman’s Fourth Amendment right to be free of “unreasonable search and seizure” even though there was no warrant. Because the city and company were in compliance with state law, strict construction was briefly back in fashion.

Those involved in issuing, serving, and enacting section 12’s are immunized from prosecution if they “act in good faith.” Private hospitals, physicians, and psychiatrists who act “under color of state law” also are immune.

Every year, Massachusetts serves about 8,000 section 12’s. The ten-day confinement can be increased to 24 days at the direction of the hospital staff before there is any judicial review. (This is in order “to ease the burden on the courts,” the legislator who drafted the statute told reporters.) Well before 24 days, people may have been drugged, beaten, intimidated, and may have suffered pain far worse than anything they might otherwise have experienced or even imagined before they began to receive state “care.” “There is no burden of proof on psychiatrists” or social workers, commented an expert on mental health law, and the availability of medical insurance helps create “a bias toward incarceration.” The increasing number of clients thus served helps the state demonstrate a “crisis” and cajole more taxes to heal “the problem.”

The source of Massachusetts’ deadly compassion is its lust for money and power. It is gratified fully in the industry of child support. One of the point men for the attack is Mitchell Adams, head of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR). Early in Governor William Weld’s administration, Adams made a media splash by publicly “marrying” his homosexual partner; under his stewardship, the DOR has displayed cutting-edge hostility to fathers.

In September 1998, Senate Bill 2044 was passed into law by the Massachusetts legislature. This statute transfers most power regarding collection of child support to the DOR and allows it to define compliance and set support levels independent of the already draconian state “Guidelines on Child Support,” the nation’s highest at 55 percent of pre-tax income. (Judges often use their discretion to set the rate even higher.)

As Dr. Ned Holstein pointed out in the Spring 1998 issue of The Banner, the Massachusetts Newsletter of Fathers and Families, S2044 lets the DOR initiate review of child-support orders and amend them by formulas that the DOR devises. Any such modification acquires the legal status of a court order, although there is no judicial review. The DOR sets the criteria for determining who is in arrears. (This can be done solely on the basis of a claim by the mother, with no substantiation required.) A defendant must exhaust his “remedies” with DOR before appealing any such modification to the courts. Without judicial hearing or review, the DOR can suspend drivers’ licenses, attach retirement or pension funds, and tap bank accounts for health insurance. There also is a mandatory 14-day imprisonment for being in arrears.

The peremptory nature of S2044 mirrors the method of section 12, and there is a further similarity. The statute exempts the state from liability should an accused person ever manage to fight through the bureaucratic thicket and demonstrate that the DOR was in error.

Near the core of this tyranny is greed. While the [30R and “child protective service” cadres boast that S2044 will help children, Holstein notes that most monies collected are absorbed into the general revenues of the commonwealth and serve to balance the budget. The death of the family is the health of the state.

Driving this point home was the unanimous passage in late summer 1998 of Massachusetts House Bill 5621. Changing its name and number frequently to throw citizens off its trail, this statute mandates that parents (read, fathers) accused of abuse will be barred from any unsupervised contact with their children. The trigger can be checked if a judge provides written findings to the contrary, but that is an unusual course in family court. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state already has safeguards against false allegations of abuse, though it failed to identify a single one. Claims that a woman is in fear of future abuse are routinely used in divorce cases to trigger ex parte orders that bar fathers from gaining shared or full custody of children. The court and the legislature both rejected requests that the hearings at which these orders are granted be subject to evidentiary standards. As one municipal judge explained, she sees the role of the court as “cracking the denial of the defendants” who dare to assert their innocence.

The picture is clear: Due process and equal protection are disappearing, have already all but disappeared in Massachusetts. The principle of “innocent until proven guilty” has been discarded for citizens and especially for fathers. The state and its officers are beyond the law that, thus, becomes lawlessness. Those who do not wish to be objects of the state will have to assert the principles of justice and natural law or America may yet go further. Indeed, in Oregon and Connecticut bills are being considered mandating Medicaid coverage for assisted suicide. The slide is on.