This week’s Courier Herald column:
Last week is one that I will never get back.
I’m ready to admit it was a wasted effort. Between online postings at PeachPundit.com and far too many phone, email, and in-person conversations – as well as a radio and TV news appearance – much of the week was dedicated to Donald Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country.
Before he walked back his position to mean only immigrants and those seeking temporary visas, his spokesperson had clarified that Trump’s position – issued in writing and thus not a verbal gaffe – was for “everyone” including American citizens living abroad.
At its crux, using religion as the determining factor is the problem of Trump’s original statement. The U.S. of course has the right to alter immigration patterns as a matter of national security. It’s quite debatable to determine how and what screening measures should be used. It’s a bigger problem for the federal government to implement a religious test. It’s blatantly unconstitutional to do so to American citizens.
Religious freedom, above all our constitutional protections, is one our country was founded upon. It includes the freedom of all religious people. This means the freedom to not practice religion as well. When the government sets the precedent that it can regulate our travel or anything else based on our religion, we’ve given up these rights for all.
I stand by this without equivocation. What follows is no attempt at that, but instead should demonstrate this is part of a wider problem.
One of the reasons I continue to be frustrated with Mr. Trump is that he always seems to make these statements when someone else is dominating the headlines. Just days before the President was speaking of an act of terrorism in San Bernardino California. He suggested that to curb these acts of terrorism we should be able to stop people on the “no-fly list” from buying guns.
This list has no due process. It has been riddled with errors and has included prominent politicians that have taken weeks or months to get their names removed. How is an ordinary citizen to believe his second amendment rights are being protected when any number of unknown bureaucrats may simply add names at will in a secretive process with no explanation? …from the same government that has weaponized the IRS against partisan opposition with no recourse toward those who did so?
The President’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch also suggested she would prosecute “hate speech” directed at Muslims in the wake of the California shootings – because one of the casualties of terrorism is the first amendment apparently. For bonus points, Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley decided that the best way not to be ignored from the left was to call for gun confiscation by executive order.
Instead of Republicans spending the week talking about the constitutional overreaches of Democrats in the name of public safety, we allowed Donald Trump to “begin negotiations” by trampling a different part of the constitution. In summary, our national Presidential debate last week was over which inalienable rights we should give up to protect our citizens in a world that frightens us.
Any American that values our Constitution should not look at this situation for partisan advantage, absolution, or comfort with the party with which they currently align. Our Constitution does not work if we only choose to abide by the parts with which we agree, that are convenient, or are enforced most of the time. The Constitution is an “all of the above” proposition.
We don’t pick up the parts we like as we move through a buffet line of rights. Those who read this and only see the problem within the confines of a presidential election are missing the point that large portions of both political parties believe that our basic rights are now subject to majority whim.
I continue to hope that this week was truly wasted – One where most non-political types were focused on Hanukkah, Christmas, Final Exams, or whatever. Because if the debate for President really is over which rights it’s time to give up then we’ve lost a lot more than a week. We’re on the verge of losing who we are as a country.