Politically Incorrect Zone- Man ejected from city meeting for refusing flag pledge, prayer

By Kevin Harris

Political correctnessColumn 1

For the first entry of my column, fittingly written on September 11, I’m going to discuss an event that took place on the other side of the country, in a small town called Winter Garden, Florida (near Orlando). Though 3000 miles from our lovely Ventura County, the topic reaches all corners of our country. Not a single community escapes this conflict in one form or another.

A September 2 Facebook posting showed a clip from WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, of the opening minutes of a Winter Garden City Meeting, where city officials were standing for the Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance. A resident who was at the meeting (and was video taping the incident with his cell phone) respectfully chose not to stand and recite the pledge or to take part in the customary prayer. As such, that resident was kicked out of the meeting by the city’s mayor, and less than two minutes later the city’s police chief arrived to escort the resident from the building!

Before I give my thoughts on the incident, I first want to quote one of the city leaders directly from his prayer, which he spoke shortly before the resident was forced out of the public meeting by an armed officer:  “And we thank you for allowing us to be in a country where we’re free to believe and think and pray, that we can be here together in public.”

Citizens Journal readers should know that I view things from the point of view of a Constitutionally-minded Libertarian, as opposed to a partisan Democrat or Republican. Not only do I not put “party” first, I don’t put “party” anywhere! Well, I’m reminded of an old line to pickup women, that never ONCE worked, describing where the party was and letting them know they were invited. But I digress.

Publicly supporting the First Amendment for the resident who was escorted from the meeting does not mean I’m an atheist or that I dislike our nation’s flag or Pledge. What it means is that I oppose hypocrisy, and that the Bill of Rights does not stop when people start to become offended by others. It means that the resident’s right to NOT stand or pray is every bit as protected as is the right of the city leaders to stand and pray. It means that the Mayor and the police chief just put all the city’s citizens in a very liable position for a lawsuit, that I promise you, the resident will win.

Having strong feelings or beliefs about something, whether it’s national pride, the love of your religion, appreciation for our nation’s soldiers, your atheism, your environmental beliefs or lack thereof, or for any number of topics that grace today’s news pages and TV screens, does not EVER give one moral or legal reason to restrict another person’s most basic individual rights. By all means, speak your piece… tell them you don’t approve.

But having an armed officer drag them off? After reciting that prayer?? 

Kevin.harrisKevin Harris is a former reporter, editor and journalist, and previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists. He is now a realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Oak Park. 

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