It isn’t surprising that the ACLU sides with drug abusers over taxpayers. But it is surprising when they find a federal judge to go along with their radical agenda.
This week, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven blocked Florida’s common-sense welfare reform law requiring drug tests for welfare applicants.
Under Florida law, the state’s Department of Children and Families will conduct drug tests on adults applying for welfare benefits. Those who fail the drug test will be unable to collect welfare benefits but may designate another person to receive the benefits on behalf of their children.
That sounds reasonable enough — but not to the ACLU or a federal judiciary oblivious to the consequences of their folly. Wanting to leave no drug user behind, the ACLU sued to block the law and managed to get Judge Scriven to go along. She ruled that being tested before you collect your welfare check might violate the Fourth Amendment.
Judge Scriven recognized that the correct legal question here is whether the state of Florida has shown a “special need” for this sort of drug testing, but the judge erred in finding that Florida failed to demonstrate a “special need” for conducting such searches without a reasonable suspicion of drug use.
“If invoking an interest in preventing public funds from potentially being used to fund drug use were the only requirement to establish a special need, the state could impose drug testing as an eligibility requirement for every beneficiary of every government program,” she wrote. “Such blanket intrusions cannot be countenanced under the Fourth Amendment.”
In these trying times, Florida’s taxpayers are understandably sensitive about how public dollars are spent. But preventing tax dollars from funding drug abuse is not the state’s only interest in this case. It is an important one of many reasons states may require welfare recipients to “Just Say No.”
An overarching concern for Florida’s Department of Children and Families has to be the safety and long-term well-being of the children and families of welfare recipients. Studies have shown that drug abuse affects the ability of an individual to obtain and retain employment; to be a responsible and effective parent; that the incidence of controlled substance abuse is higher among welfare recipients than in the population as a whole; and that drug abuse by parents contributes to child abuse and neglect.
Undoubtedly, the safety of the children of Florida’s poorest families presents a substantial public safety concern that must be considered in deciding whether Florida has shown a “special need” for its drug testing program. Moreover, the state may legitimately consider the risk to the public from the crime associated with illicit drug use and trafficking and may elect not to underwrite this activity with the public coffers.