One of the elements at the heart of the First Amendment is a deep respect for the people. It is the public that has the great responsibility of listening to free speech and determining the validity of that speech. We were entrusted by the framers of our nation to have the discernment to judge for ourselves. That is why I was very concerned to read the Flathead Beacon article, “Pressure Intensifies on County to Remove Health Board Member.” It quotes the Whitefish City Council saying “Dr. Bukacek’s right to engage in free speech ends where the public’s right to be safe from COVID-19 begins.”
A quick search to learn more revealed Dr. Birx (an Obama appointed U.S. AIDS coordinator and White House coronavirus task force appointee) stated, “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust.” She also said she was worried the CDC was inflating the COVID-19 death rate by as much as 25% (Washington Post, May 9). No matter where you land on the topic of death rates, CDC, government response etc., should we not be able to have the discussion on these topics?
Health board members or Dr. Birx are not my point in writing. This pandemic will pass and we will be on to something else. What will not pass is a city council that is so scared of the First Amendment and the power that it gives to the people that they feel the need to silence the conversation.
I have many friends that are liberal in their thinking. It is fun to grab a pint with them and chat about government roles and personal freedoms. At times we agree, sometimes minds are changed but most of the time we walk away having had a rousing conversation and a good IPA. The same happens with my conservative friends. However, a leftist does not want to even have the conversation. They make accusations like being a “danger to the citizens.” This of course is according to them. The underlying notion is they don’t trust the public’s intelligence enough to think for themselves. They skip the dialog and say things like “right to engage in free speech ends where the public’s right to be safe from COVID-19 begins.”
What is ironic is that the Whitefish City Council does have the First Amendment right to express speech that degrades and limits that very same First Amendment right. It is up to us, the people, to stand up for our rights against those that express anti-constitutional views. There are those that enjoy a good conversation; liberal, conservative, independent or even if you are one who could not care less about politics. Everyone who wants to see our freedom of civil discourse continue must speak out. We can change minds, change votes, and change leadership of those around us. Bottom line is have the conversation. President Ronald Reagan was right when he said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction … It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
Rep. Matt Regier