INDIANAPOLIS — A decades-old, innocuous-sounding United Nations document has quickly become a rallying point for those on the right who fear the U.S. government will be overthrown by the U.N., and Indiana is the latest state to join the debate born of the tea party.
Agenda 21 calls for better management of global resources and better care for the environment, amid concern over how global warming will harm people. And, as a U.N. document, it has no power inside the U.S. aside from being a recommendation.
But with the rise of the tea party and help from people like former Fox News host Glenn Beck and conservative radio talk show host Alex Jones, the proposal has become a symbol of an assumed attempt for the U.N. to establish a global empire.
The battle is slowly moving from the fringes of the right into statehouses across the nation. Indiana is one of five states that will ponder a ban on implementing the proposal this year. Alabama and Tennessee became the first states to approve bans last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State Rep. Tim Neese, an Elkhart Republican and author of a proposal to ban implementation of the U.N. document, doesn’t see it in quite the same terms as tea party members who have adopted this as a core battle. But he does see it as a broader issue, one that concerns the protection of private property rights and Indiana’s state sovereignty.
“I don’t see it as a battle with environmentalists, as long as people have the ability to choose,” he said. “So when any type of special interest tries to — through a policy whether it be a legislative body or local or state official — to mandate that a specific type of material has to be used, that’s where I think the Agenda 21 policy is going beyond what is neutral.”
Neese’s proposal was sent to the House committee on interstate and international cooperation, where it has a chance to be heard this session. A companion measure filed by Sen. Dennis Kruse, an Auburn Republican, was sent to the Senate rules committee, where it is likely to die.
The General Assembly will have plenty of property control and sovereignty issues to deal with this session, all proposed by Republicans. One measure would allow gold and silver to be used as currency in Indiana, another would bar federal officials from apprehending someone without consent of the local sheriff and a Senate proposal would grant Indiana the power to nullify federal law, specifically the federal health care law.
Of course, the only thing that ultimately grants a state power is the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment.
These Agenda 21 measures are unlikely to develop legs, given that Indiana’s legislative leaders are looking to skirt as many hot-button issues as possible this session, focusing instead on the budget, education and jobs.
Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said he’s surprised to see the Agenda 21 proposal from lawmakers he’s previously worked with on other issues, “when they have been pragmatic and foresighted on tackling here-and-now challenges.”
“Indiana faces real environmental challenges with real economic impacts, like the blue-green algae problem, which is hurting our recreational sector and drinking water supplies,” Kharbanda said.
Environmental struggles have almost always consisted of charges that regulations will destroy economic growth and cost American jobs. Only recently have conservative Republicans’ arguments morphed into the threat of a global takeover of the United States.
Beating that drum is Beck and his new novel, named “Agenda 21.” In it, the U.N. creates a global government, abolishes the United States and forces Americans to run on treadmills to generate clean electricity for the New World Order.
“This is a massive movement, and its real intentions are being masked with environmental issues. The bad news is this was set up by those who want to establish a global government system,” Beck said in June 2011 on his Fox show, shortly before it was cancelled.
“Once they put their fangs in our community, they will suck all the blood out of it and we will not be able to survive.”
Before anyone can sink their “fangs” into the U.S., they’ll have to deal with a highly partisan and highly dysfunctional Congress. They would also have to get in line behind continued budget battles and another fight over raising the debt ceiling.
Washington has enough trouble with the basics these days without wading into other policy areas — like energy and the environment.