It’s good that the Dickinson City Council removed the Israel test as a requirement for hurricane relief.
Even if you believe fervently that Israel is a bastion of democracy in a part of the world where democracy is endangered, you should have doubts about the wisdom of requiring some kind of loyalty or ideology test as a condition for receiving help after a natural disaster.
In its early days, America was full of such tests. In the colonial era, there were tests that involved religious beliefs. If you were a Catholic in some places, you might not be able to vote. If you were a Puritan in others, you might have the same problem.
Gradually, Americans began to grasp the idea that rights — including the right to equal treatment under the law — shouldn’t depend on your political or religious views. We Americans are, and always have been, divided. We have disagreed and still disagree about important things.
But our fervently held beliefs — about the standing of Israel as an ally, about abortion, about religion doctrines, about protests during the national anthem — shouldn’t disqualify any of us from the same treatment under the law.
Are there really that many people out there who think a person’s views on any of those topics should disqualify that person from receiving help after a hurricane?
Initially, the Dickinson council thought that a state law attempting to suppress political dissent against the current administration in Israel applied to the city’s disaster recovery program. (The prime minister has far less support in Israel than he and his government apparently have in the Texas House of Representatives.)
Homeowners would have been required to “verify” that they would not boycott Israel as a condition of seeking aid.
There are many things wrong with that kind of thinking, but let’s take one obvious problem: How would you verify compliance?
Some households boycott big box stores that have been accused of wiping out mom-and-pop stores. Other households won’t do business at stores owned by people who have political views that are different from theirs. Companies associated with owners who have taken stands on abortion and gay marriage have been targets for years. Some Daily News readers offended by the protests during the national anthem have urged a boycott of the NFL.
If the political party with a majority in the Texas Legislature starts making disaster aid contingent on any of those positions, where will it end? Will we all have to “verify” that our beliefs are in line with those of the ruling class in Austin?
It’s hard to think of any idea that is more anti-American.
This road leads to folly, and the Dickinson council was wise to back up and start over.
The only real question about this embarrassing story is how a bad idea got to be law. According to state records, the measure passed the Texas House unanimously. You’d think that we would have, perhaps by accident, elected one brave soul who would have had second thoughts.
• Heber Taylor