Guest opinion: Bullock vetoes freedom of religious speech bill

2013-05-14T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Bullock vetoes freedom of religious speech billBy DAVID HOWARD The Billings Gazette
May 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The first and most important amendment to our Bill of Rights says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” Montana’s Constitution states, “The state shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” These freedoms have been maintained through many wars, causing tremendous sacrifices.

On May 3, Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed House Bill 217, a bill that would have restored freedom of religion to Montana’s churches that was stolen six years ago when the Montana Office of Political Practices tried to force a small congregation to be an “incidental political committee” for speaking out against an issue seen by it to be of vital religious significance. The church then sued to protect its right to religious freedom, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the church, stating that the state of Montana had used petty political harassment to violate the Church’s First Amendment rights.

House Bill 217 was written to place religious organizations under the same guidelines (26 USC 501 (c) (3)) as imposed by the federal government during federal elections in the state of Montana. Bullock’s reason for vetoing HB217 was: “The bill opens a pathway for dark money to influence ballot issue campaigns without any regulation.”

Churches, dark money? No regulation? Does he want pastors, like future Martin Luther Kings, fined and possibly arrested in Montana for speaking biblically about an issue the state deems political? Does our governor know that churches are protected by the First Amendment, as was Martin Luther King during the civil rights era and have the constitutional right to speak about issues they believe have religious importance? The whole purpose of the First Amendment is the state doesn’t get to pick what is political vs. religious speech.

Bullock’s reasoning violates the U.S. Constitution, the standard our country’s representatives have sworn to support, but it does not violate the power of progressive liberal reasoning, (the end justifies any means). There is a fable that describes progressive reasoning. It is about a scorpion who asks a frog for a lift across the river. The frog, (a lover of freedom) very sensibly demurs. He has heard what scorpions do with their stingers. The scorpion then reasons (lies) that it is silly for the frog to worry about his past reputation because if he killed the frog that was carrying him, he too would drown. This is enough to persuade the feckless amphibian to trust the scorpion, and he takes on his dubious passenger. Halfway into the voyage the scorpion stings his host. The frog, in his death throes, says, “How can you do this? Now you to will die.” The scorpion replies, “It’s my nature.”

Why deny Montanans their freedom of religion asked the representative? The governor relies, it’s my progressive nature?

Republican David Howard of Park City represents House District 60 and sponsored HB217.

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