On November 2, 2015, to great fanfare, Obama signed an executive order banning the box. In case you're unfamiliar with that particular euphemism, it refers to the part of the application for federal jobs which refers to whether you've ever been convicted of a crime. Now, applicants for federal jobs no longer have to say whether they've ever been convicted of a crime.
The idea is that everyone deserves a second chance, and once criminals "have paid their debt to society" -- as per the White House press release -- they deserve an opportunity to make something of themselves, otherwise they will be tempted to turn back to a life of crime.
Sounds reasonable enough. But if someone has a conviction for a violent crime, you'd think his coworkers would have a right to know. And shouldn't people who've maintained a clean record have preference over those who haven't?
In any case, "ban the box" appears to be one of Obama's many domestic initiatives motivated primarily by racial considerations. (You've got to love that alliteration -- this administration certainly knows how to appeal to their constituency.)
Fast forward three months. On February 8th, Obama signed the International Meghan's Law, which requires that the passport of anyone ever convicted of a sex crime be specially marked so that he's immediately identifiable to foreign authorities.
Doesn't that law conflict with the spirit of banning the box? If sex criminals have done their time, and paid their debt to society, don't they too deserve a second chance? And they're not even applying for taxpayer-funded jobs; all they want to do is travel.
The case can be made that sex criminals are irredeemable: once a child molester, always a child molester. Peoples' sexualities simply don't change. So, it seems reasonable that foreign authorities be alerted when a known child molester is in their country.
But aren't criminal predilections also somewhat ingrained? A man who's been convicted of assault and battery in the past is still prone to violence, even after he's served his term. Wouldn't it be unfair to his future employers to keep them in the dark about this?
And what does this mean for federal employment? Now that the box has been banned, will sex criminals -- including child molesters and rapists -- no longer have to let federal employers know of their crimes? That results in a situation where we're alerting foreign authorities -- but not their coworkers in the US -- to the sex criminals' presence.
Keep in mind, the definition of a sex crime varies from country to country. In the US, if a 19 year old male has sex with a 15 year old female, he's considered a criminal. Likewise, if a 24 year old female teacher has an affair with a 17 year old male student, she is breaking the law. In many countries, these are not considered criminal acts. Yet at the same time, Obama lectures African leaders on how homosexuality -- which is illegal there -- ought to be decriminalized.
Is there a value judgment there? And might that judgment possibly be influenced by the fact that Obama himself is a homosexual?
Obama always claims that he is on "the right side of history." But does the right side of history consist of forgiveness, or the scarlet letter?