Shouting at school board meetings doesn’t make you a terrorist. Bullhorns in a legislative chamber shouldn’t make you a hero

Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland. (AP photo)

Shouting at school board meetings doesn’t make you a terrorist. Bullhorns in a legislative chamber shouldn’t make you a hero

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It is part of democracy that people will disagree about policy and the actions of governmental bodies. Debating policy and government actions is at the heart of democracy.

Some people believed in 2021 that schools should remain remote or children should be forced to wear masks for seven hours a day while politicians didn’t have to. Some people believed schools should adopt the worldview of transgender ideology, whereby biological sex was irrelevant. Some people believed pornographic books and drag shows were appropriate for high schools or middle schools. Plus, one school board thought it important to cover up a sexual assault by a possibly gender-bending boy.


Obviously, many people, including many parents, were upset by those policies and practices, and so they showed up at school board meetings to voice their objections.

Many on the Left who agreed with the school board policies or actions said, “Actually, the school board is right about closures, masking, transgender ideology, pornographic books, and drag shows, and the cover-up wasn’t really a cover-up.”

That’s democratic debate. But many who wanted to defend the school board’s decisions and actions instead made a meta-argument. Rather than argue against the arguments of the school board’s critics, they said that the critics were illegitimate in their arguments, citing the rowdy behavior of the critics.

In fact, the school board defenders accused their critics of “domestic terrorism.” The Biden administration responded to this letter by siding with those school board defenders.

What Biden and the school board defenders were doing was laying down the rules of the game: Sure, you can object to these policies and actions, but not THIS way!

Now, in Tennessee, after a transgender adult murdered teachers and students at a Christian school in an apparent hate crime against Christians, some Tennessee lawmakers thought the proper response was state laws curbing who could legally own what sort of guns. Many folks disagree with these gun banners and argue with them on the substance.

The state legislature’s majority went further than disagreeing with the gun banners and actually kicked them out of the legislature — not for demanding new gun laws, but for breaking the rules of the legislature and intentionally disrupting normal democratic proceedings.

The majority of the legislature, like the Biden administration and the school board defenders of 2021, decided to skip over the substantive argument and just expel the would-be gun controllers because of the way they made their arguments.

The expellers in Tennessee were wrong. The folks who accused angry parents of “terrorism” were wrong. Yes, the way we dissent from government policy matters, but the way we treat improper dissent also matters.

Of course, we don’t expect academia or the media to be forthright about their arguments. They’ll focus on the impoliteness when they don’t like the argument and the overreaction to the impoliteness when they do like the argument.

But the more grownup members of society — the school boards, the Biden DOJ, and the Tennessee legislature — ought to demand good behavior but not overreact to bad behavior.


© 2023 Washington Examiner

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