One of the hallmarks of totalitarian tyranny is the use of the awesome power of government to investigate, stifle, and silence criticism.
Attorney General Merrick Garland this week added to the mounting evidence that such enforcement is also entirely selective, based on the political agenda of the government in power. At issue are thousands of parents stepping forward to question curriculum and policy decisions made by public school boards and administrators—an inconvenient truth for the progressive Left.
Take for example the robust national conversation regarding the replacement of traditional education with race-based programming in the name of so-called “equity.” Parents across our country have had enough of schools conditioning children to see each other’s skin color first and foremost, categorizing everyone according to a hierarchy of racial privilege, and pitting different racial groups against each other. They have formed grassroots groups, spoken at school board meetings, and even run for school board positions.
In response, teacher unions and school boards have spent the last six months flip-flopping between insistence that critical race theory either doesn’t exist or isn’t being implemented in k-12 schools. But they couldn’t hide from the truth.
Countless articles and two landmark federal lawsuits exposed what parents already knew: administrators, accreditors, unions, and teachers are putting divisive and hateful ideology into practice and using our schools to create a generation of “social justice warriors.” Their goal is to undermine our constitutional republic.
When this was exposed, the National School Board Association stepped in and demanded the Biden Administration to declare that parents speaking up for their children are “domestic terrorists.” A mere four days later, Garland ordered the FBI to take action to “protect” school board members, who are government officials, from parents disagreeing with school board policies ranging from mask mandates to the teaching of critical race theory in the nation’s public schools.
The broad scope of Garland’s initial order unleashes the nation’s top law enforcement agency to root out parents who protest in the name of public safety: “The Department . . . is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate.”
This is a direct attack on the First Amendment rights of both parents and teachers. The unmistakable intent is to intimidate and silence.
Iconic abolitionist speaker Frederick Douglass responded to a successful 1860 effort in Boston to shut down a public meeting to address the question of slavery. Douglass said, “There can be no right of speech where any man, however lifted up, or however humble, however young, or however old, is overawed by force, and compelled to suppress his honest sentiments.” He described constitutional free speech as “the dread of tyrants.”
Our nation’s founders established the First Amendment in response to England’s repression of speech and to curb such tyranny in the future. They recognized that nowhere are the threats of censorship more dangerous than when a restriction prohibits public discourse on “the propriety of public measures and political opinions.”
The First Amendment guarantees the right “. . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Public schools are arms of the government. The speed with which our government has moved from open public comment to cutting off parents and teachers when they speak at meetings, including calls to end public comment altogether, is startling.
Make no mistake about it, the American culture war is real. This is not news. Garland’s order declares that in the coming days the federal government will develop new measures to report, assess, and respond to anything it deems is “intimidation” or “harassment.” Is the Biden Administration using its power selectively? Yes. Is it ignoring the Constitution? Yes.
Garland’s order reinforces a point some on the Right have been arguing for decades: The most important battleground in the struggle to save our American republic is the public schools. To the courageous parents speaking up, criticizing, advocating, and going to court if necessary—you have rights, and you must protect them. Free speech is the dread of tyrants, so we cannot let tyranny win.