Watching an episode of Tucker Carlson this past week, I was shocked to learn that the Biden administration is making plans to actually deploy FBI agents to round up American parents in every state who are disagreeing with public school boards.
Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the FBI to address what he called a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” against educators and school board members.
The Washington Post explained, “In a memorandum to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and federal prosecutors, Garland wrote that the Justice Department will hold strategy sessions with law enforcement in the next 30 days and is expected to announce measures in response to ‘the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel’ in the nation’s public schools.
As Tucker commented, “So the question is: Who is threatening these teachers and school board members? Is it al-Qaida? Is it the Russian government? Is it ISIS-K? No. It is parents. Parents are angry about what’s happening in schools.”
Let me state categorically that any acts or threats of violence against school board members are wrong. But this parental “criminal conduct,” as Attorney General Garland called it, is about far less than violence.
So, what’s so threatening that it required the FBI to usurp and override local school and authorities, including local law enforcement? Garland said it’s over highly politicized issues such as mask mandates and interpretations of Critical Race Theory. Really?
A group of school board members said in a letter to Mr. Biden that “much of the vitriol has involved policies focusing on mask mandates to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The [National School Boards Association] likened the harassment and abuse over face coverings in schools to domestic terrorism.”
Are American parents now domestic terrorists because they disagree and dissent? Are parents really a national security threat? The feds are potentially criminalizing parenting because of protests!
How excessive is federal government overreach when American parents can’t even disagree with school officials about subjects pertaining to their children that they conscientiously object to? Will the American public tolerate every breech of the federal government, even when the Biden administration gets it wish for the IRS to track every bank account with $600?!
“If this isn’t a deliberate attempt to chill parents from showing up at school board meetings, I don’t know what is,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said to Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “You’re using the FBI to intervene in school board meetings. This is extraordinary.”
By deploying the FBI on local community school matters across America, Biden and Garland are steamrolling the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with its separation of powers between state and federal governments. Moreover, what does it say about local school officials, mayors, community leaders and law enforcement? Are they all so inept that they can’t handle disagreements about mask mandates and Critical Race Theory without involving the FBI?
Garland himself needs to reread his memorandum when he wrote, “Spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution.” Dare I say that even hate language is protected by the First Amendment. If not, “free speech” is no more than “nice chat,” but the Constitution protects far more than that.
The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
At its core, the First Amendment clearly prohibits government from making any law hindering the right of the people to peaceably assemble for any of myriad of reasons, including protests.
I need to repeat something I wrote in a previous column so as to educate Garland and other officials about the real meaning of the First Amendment.
If you didn’t know, the freedom to protest or assemble peaceably had its background in the First Continental Congress and the grievances the American people had against King George III and Parliament. In their document called, “Declaration and Resolves” (Oct. 14, 1774), the Congress stated that the people “have a right to peaceably assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king” (something they were not allowed to do in the motherland.)
Benjamin Franklin wrote, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” He also said, “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”
Even a young 16-year old Franklin, in his Dogwood Papers, written in 1722, stated wisdom: “In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech; a thing terrible to public traitors.”
Alexander Hamilton, in People v. Croswell, Feb. 13, 1804, stated during the presidential administration of Thomas Jefferson: “The liberty of the press consists, in my idea, in publishing the truth, from good motives and for justifiable ends, though it reflect on the government, on magistrates, or individuals. If it be not allowed, it excludes the privilege of canvassing men, and our rulers. It is in vain to say, you may canvass measures. This is impossible without the right of looking to men.”
George Washington, in his Address to the officers of the army, March 15, 1783, couldn’t have stated it better: “For if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”
Washington would have concurred that freedom of speech included dissent even against “the king” or president, as long as it didn’t lead to his demise. Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t a Founding Father but his words about criticizing even presidents are powerful, especially since he was one: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American people.”
My point is that our founders secured our rights in the First Amendment for even vehement dissent and the use of what many today would call hate language, which the U.S. Supreme court again affirmed just a few years ago. But let me again be clear: Our founders did not condone or endorse violent or destructive dissent, until of course they realized that separation and war with the Crown was the only way forward and inevitable – a sentiment Thomas Jefferson even echoed for the preservation of our own republic in the latter half of the Declaration of Independence.
Many attribute the following statement to Thomas Jefferson: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” But even his Monticello estate has concluded that: “To date we have found no evidence that he said or wrote this.”
Jefferson may not have literally said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” but I think it’s fair to say that he and the other founders believed it was indeed a high form of patriotism. I do, too. In my opinion, it captures the essence of the First Amendment.
We do know that Jefferson was very clear when he wrote in a 1787 letter to James Madison: “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
The truth is, modern progressivism, leftist ideologies and our politically correct culture have obliterated the true meaning of the First Amendment. We need to go back to our founders’ original intent if we are to move forward and heal the divisions across our land. Censorship and suppressing free speech (whether in the public schools, workplace, the halls of Washington or on social media platforms) is un-American and unconstitutional.
America needs to resurrect the real First Amendment, as I did in my New York Times bestseller “Black Belt Patriotism.” And in so doing, we need to reconsider and reeducate others on what the term “peaceably” meant to our founders and should also mean to us. We must retrain our younger generations on the freedoms in the First Amendment and how to agree to disagree agreeably. So many today are on the wrong track, and the unpatriotic messages about America they receive in public schools aren’t helping.
Katie Gorka who serves as director of the Feulner Institute’s Center for Civil Society and the American Dialogue, wrote a great column last November that stated: “Many young Americans seem to have a growing disdain for our country. According to a Gallup poll, pride in our nation has declined, especially among young adults. Young adults are taking to the streets and not merely protesting but wreaking havoc, rioting and looting, tearing down statues, and shutting down anyone who doesn’t share their perspective.”
And what about politicians? Gone are the days when strong leaders and politically differing personalities like 1980s Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan were friends and reached across the aisle in order to lead our country. Today’s politics are all about pitching polarities, demonizing your opposition and casting blame to justify one’s own divisiveness, rage and inability to bridge gaps. But what we need like never before are leaders at the state and federal level like those decades ago who knew how to agree to disagree agreeably, confronted tough challenges together and advanced our nation forward with American exceptionalism despite their differences.
Let me conclude with having you ponder again a 250-year-old question. On Sept. 17, 1787, while leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked what type of government the delegates had produced: a republic or a monarchy? He allegedly said, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The question still stands.
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