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Jonathan Lange: Lange: Cheney rushed to judgment, Lummis finding the facts

in Column/Jonathan Lange

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Both women of Wyoming’s congressional delegation are in the national news.

Only weeks after Liz Cheney’s re-election as the GOP conference chair, she faces a removal petition signed by 107—over half—of her colleagues. Lummis, on the hand, was publicly criticized by 78 members of the Wyoming Bar who published an open letter claiming that the very first vote of Wyoming’s first female senator, Cynthia Lummis, was “wrong.”

Both the recall petition and the open letter are related to former President Donald Trump. But that is where the similarity ends. Cheney’s troubles stem from her decision to defy 70 percent of her constituency and vote to impeach Trump only seven days before the end of his term. Lummis, in effect, did the opposite. She voted against the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes pending an investigation.

Much ink has been spilled on both sides of the issue. Was the election legitimate or illegitimate? Were President Trump’s actions in contesting it right or wrong? Kip Crofts, former U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, published a thorough and thoughtful article on the subject in the Cowboy State Daily. If his reasonable call for investigation ever comes to pass, America will learn the answers to these questions. If not, only the historians will know. Either way, time will tell.

My concern, however, is the present. Will we have the patience and self-discipline to find the facts that can allow us to rise above the frenzy? Or will we abandon rationality for mob rule.

The bloody streets of France’s reign of terror are the real-world consequences of mobs that ride the wave of emotion and rage. Such irrational destruction is denounced in the world’s best literature: Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Rigoletto, to name a few. Harper Lee wrote of the injustice of the southern lynch mob in, To Kill a Mockingbird. All these warnings recall the hasty trial of Jesus and his unjust treatment in the courts of Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate.

Wise Solomon warned us, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Western jurisprudence has spent centuries developing procedures and traditions designed to slow the rush to judgment enough that truth might prevail. Look back on recent history and remember how many lives and livelihoods were destroyed by rioting mobs chanting slogans that were, too late, proved false in a court of law.

Against this measure, Cheney’s vote is indefensible.

The articles of impeachment make numerous assertions about “facts” that are by no means proven. Take this portion, for instance: “…incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn Constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 election…” In the space of a few lines, there are at least three unproved assertions.

First, breaches to Capitol security barriers began nearly a half-hour before—and two miles away from—where the President finished speaking at the Ellipse. Were these people motivated by words that they could not have heard? Second, these provocateurs were obviously not “members of the crowd he had addressed.” Third, do we know their objectives? Where they the same as—or even compatible with—the objectives of those who arrived later to find the security barriers already moved aside?

On the day that Cheney claimed to know these facts, the FBI was only seven days into its investigation. Since then, evidence to the contrary has mounted. It took a special counsel 30 months to disprove the “Russia collusion” theory. That, alone, should have cautioned Cheney from trusting the week-old accusations from her party’s opponents.

Cynthia Lummis, on the other hand, took a more careful posture. Her vote against the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes judged them to be neither fraudulent nor legitimate. She voted for more investigation, not less. It was a vote for a 10-day emergency audit to establish facts and address the legitimate concerns of tens of millions of voters.

Those who signed the open letter invoked the rules of the Wyoming Bar in their criticism. Does the Wyoming State Bar agree with them? Is it true that Lummis has a duty to “publicly affirm the legitimacy” of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes before she hears any answer to the legitimate concerns raised by Pennsylvania’s own lawmakers? Or is Lummis right in saying, “Each of us has a solemn duty to ensure that the slate of presidential electors we certify is beyond reproach, respecting the people’s voice and upholding the Constitution.”

Cheney condemned before there was even the possibility of investigation. Lummis’ critics want her to “publicly affirm the legitimacy of the results of the 2020 Presidential election” without investigation. Both fall into the same frenetic rush to judgment.

Mob rule is based on snap judgments. Civilization requires time for the deliberative process to find out the truth. Only then can justice prevail.

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Jonathan Lange: Free Speech: How Protecting Obscenities, Stifles Truth

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By Jonathan Lange

Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) that established the “fighting words doctrine.”

When Walter Chaplinsky was arrested under New Hampshire’s public obscenity law, he sought protection under the First Amendment. He claimed that calling the town marshal, “a G-d d-mned racketeer,” and “a d-mned fascist,” was protected speech.

Justice Frank Murphy penned the unanimous decision of the Court, “There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem.

These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or ‘fighting’ words—those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

The “fighting words” doctrine says that the First Amendment protects the expression of every idea. It does not protect words that are merely intended “to inflict injury” without elucidating the truth.

Notice that public obscenity laws harmoniously existed with the First Amendment for more than 150 years before the Supreme Court even thought it necessary to explain why.

It does not require a linguistic scholar to know the difference between lewd, obscene and the insulting words on the one hand, and words that convey thoughtful content on the other.

Fighting words attack the person without addressing the argument. A schoolyard bully does not give rational justifications for his wrongs. He merely changes the subject by irrationally insulting his accusers. SCOTUS remarked that such common sense had “never been thought to raise any constitutional problem.”

Then, on April 26, 1968, Paul Cohen was arrested in the Los Angeles Courthouse for wearing a jacket that said, “F— the Draft.” Like Chaplinsky, he contested California’s offensive conduct law on First Amendment grounds.

This time, SCOTUS overturned the “fighting words doctrine” in a 5-4 decision. Justice John Harlan, writing for the majority, scuttled 180 years of First Amendment jurisprudence with the silly assertion, “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.”

While the “fighting words” doctrine saw an objective, well defined difference between the obscene and the noble, the Cohen decision claimed it was purely subjective. The common sense that ad hominem arguments “are no essential part of any exposition of ideas” was inverted so that they now are sacred speech.

This ruling unleashed a flood of obscenities and verbal assaults on the unsuspecting public. In 1977 Cohen was cited as a reason to permit Nazis to chant Jewish insults and carry the swastika through Skokie, Illinois—a community of holocaust survivors. In 1978, the Federal Communications Commission lost its ability to keep obscenities off the air; and in 1986 public schools lost their authority to prevent students from screaming “F— you,” in the halls of education. In 1992 the Court unanimously struck down long-standing prohibitions against the KKK’s cross-burning.

Have you ever wondered how American culture has gotten to the point that total strangers are permitted legally to scream vile obscenities in your face while policemen in riot gear stand by passively?

It was not that Americans petitioned their legislators to permit lewd, obscene, profane, libelous, and insulting words to become part of the public discourse. It happened, rather, because the same court that gave you Roe v. Wade overruled common sense.

Before blaming candidates or movements, or accusing one another of debasing public discourse, we should remember our history. It was five men in black robes who foisted this ugly world upon us. And the evil didn’t end there.

Their twisted logic led, inevitably, to so-called “hate speech laws.” Now there are certain ideas that cannot be expressed without public penalty. Florists, bakers, clerks and printers have been devastated by lost business, government fines and legal costs just for expressing the idea that male and female are not interchangeable.

Meanwhile, the law permits these same people to be bullied with words like, “hater,” “bigot,” and “Nazi.” Such words contribute nothing to the discovery of truth. Rather, they are meant as verbal assaults and incitements to economic and social violence against their targets.

In 1942 Justice Murphy asserted, as a matter of timeless common sense, that the First Amendment protects the expression and defense of every idea as a valuable step towards discovering the truth. But the First Amendment does not protect the utterance of every possible obscenity because “fighting words” do not elucidate the truth.

Now, only 80 years later, the case is reversed. Nonsensical, vile and intentionally injurious words are fully protected speech while the expression of certain ideas—even in the kindest possible terms—is strictly forbidden. SCOTUS’ 1971 scuttling of obscenity laws was supposed to protect free speech. Instead, it has crushed the speech that matters most: the assertion and defense of the truth.

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Jonathan Lange: How Christmas Brings the World Together

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Christmas is, without a doubt, the greatest unifying holiday on the world’s calendar. In these days of turmoil and division we cannot do better than to think on this blessed unity during these holy days.

First, consider how Christmas unifies us on a cultural level. It remains one of the few holidays that all Americans celebrate together. Globally it stands with Easter as the only two holidays that are celebrated on every continent. On December 25th of each year people from Siberia to South Africa to San Francisco set their minds on a singular event that forever changed the world.

Christ’s birth made such an impact around the globe that nearly every person alive can name the number of years since his birth without a moment’s hesitation. While scholars may quibble about whether the ancient calculations were completely accurate, it cannot be denied that the year 2020 intends to count the years since Jesus’ birth.

For all the time before Christ, civilizations marked time by the establishment of a new local kingdom. Judea might note the year as, “the 39th year of King Uzziah.” Next door, Israel had a different king; and that same year was called the first year of King Jabesh (See 2 Kings 15:13).

With rare exceptions, that is no longer the custom. Rather, nations the world over all count back to the date of Jesus’ birth. We acknowledge this every time we put the letters “A.D.” after the year. These initials stand for the Latin words “anno domini,” which are translated, “in the year of our Lord.”

This reveals the second of Christmas’ unifying qualities. It declares that Jesus is the king of all the earth. While the ancient world knew of great and sprawling empires like those of the Persians, Greeks and Romans, never was there a single man ruling over the entire globe. The birth of Christ changed all that.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6). The “King of kings and Lord of lords” was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger (see Revelation 17:14 and 19:16).

Of course, the principalities and powers of this world are always attempting to achieve a one-world government. By the exercise of raw power through vast stores of wealth, they believe that they can solve the world’s problems if only they can control one more lever of power. Yet, the more power they gain, the more misery spreads.

Jesus’ lordship is not like that. He rules not by raw power, but by self-sacrifice. The Creator was born as a man to give His life as a ransom for the sins of the world. What sets Jesus apart from every other king and lord is that he knows the true cause of the world’s division.

The hate, anger and lust that destroy and divide us are not caused by the differences among us. They are caused by the sin within us. So, the unity that Jesus brings to the world is not accomplished by the mere shuffling of power, wealth and status. The unity that is the true hope for the world is brought about by addressing the problem of sin. For Christendom, that means repentance.

This is what makes Christmas truly unifying. Unity begins when each of us, individually, stops blaming others for the evils around us. When we face up to the greed, lust, anger and ill will in our own hearts, the Christ-child comes with His forgiveness to reconcile us to all those who are around us.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn put it well. “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.” Jesus brings reconciliation not by forcing others to treat us differently, but by changing our own hearts. This permits us to love and be loved despite our sins.

When sins are real and cause real harm, forgiveness cannot be mere sentimentality. Real forgiveness comes at a high price. That is why Jesus’ lordship over the world was brought about by his own self-sacrifice. By paying the debt that we cannot pay, He reconciles us to one another by restoring what others stole from us by their sin and by restoring to others what we stole from them. This, and this alone, brings unity and good will to the world.

As you celebrate the birth of Jesus, seek out the true unity that He came to bring.

“O come, Desire of Nations, Bind in one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to Thee, O Israel.”

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Jonathan Lange: A Time For Choosing

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

It has now been a full month since Americans went to the polls to elect a president. By the time America went to bed on November 3, it was clear who had won the election. When they woke up the next morning, it was clear who had won the counting.

In normal elections and healthy republics, the count winner and the election winner are the same person. When the two are different, voters are dismayed. Neither Democrat voters nor Republican voters won America’s 2020 election. According to a Rasmussen poll, almost a third of Democrat voters believe that election was stolen from President Trump. Three quarters of Republicans think the same.

These were the numbers before Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Georgia televised open hearings that detailed election fraud in their respective states. The number of voters who feel disenfranchised have surely grown since then.

During a time of crisis such as this, the Fourth Estate ought to be moving mountains to find and report the truth. Instead, it has conspired to hide the truth from the America people. The mainstream media doggedly stuck to its monolithic talking points: “baseless claims” and “without evidence.” The American people are not convinced.

The affidavits of eyewitnesses to the massive fraud perpetrated by election officials grow day by day. By some accounts, they number in the thousands. Each sworn statement is legitimate evidence in any court of law. This is so obviously true that every repetition of the words “without evidence” is simply further evidence that the once-trusted source is lying.

So, Americans are turning in increasing numbers to social media to discover reliable facts. Enter Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. Using the raw power of their monopolistic platforms, they exploit their users like so many trojan horses. Every user who wants to communicate some fact about voter fraud to his or her friends will find that Dorsey or Zuckerberg intercepts the post and tars it with the word “disputed.” Logically, posts that make the opposite claim are also disputed. That they are not also tarred with the “disputed” label gives away the game.

When election officials in six to ten states defraud voters in strikingly similar patterns it is reasonable to suspect that there is collusion going on. When news outlets competing for market share lose viewers and readers for the same shoddy reporting, it is reasonable to suspect collusion. And when corporations that make their money by encouraging conversation deliberately stifle it, something strange is happening.

One does not have to be a rocket-scientist to see these anomalies. The mainstream media may continue to turn a blind eye, and social media may continue to suppress curiosity. But it will not succeed in keeping voters from both parties in the dark. In a December 2nd speech to the American people, President Trump said, “Everybody knows it.” He is right.

The game is up; and it is a time for choosing. This is no longer about a presidential election. It is about the preservation of our Constitution. “As President, I have no higher duty than to defend the laws and the Constitution of the United States. That is why I am determined to protect our election system, which is now under coordinated assault and siege.”

Wyoming’s senior senator, John Barrasso, recently appeared on Fox News. Asked by Harris Faulkner to respond to Trump’s charge, he said, “this is why we need to get this information and this investigation done quickly. Look, I campaigned for President Trump, voted for President Trump. Over 72 million Americans voted for President Trump. Over 70 percent of the people in Wyoming have done so. We need to make sure that there was a fair election, that there was integrity in the system. Because that’s the basis of our nation.”

“The president,” Barrasso said, “is doing exactly what I would expect him to do under this situation: provide information, look for answers and then, take it to the courts. That’s what he’s doing.” He pointed out that fraud has, “a criminal element to it. This needs to be prosecuted and punished. People need to be arrested here.”

Recently, Representative Cheney said that the president “should fulfill his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by respecting the sanctity of our electoral process.” This has been widely interpreted as “casting doubt on the Trump campaign’s claims of widespread voter fraud.”

Senator-elect Lummis also said on Good Morning America, “the integrity of this election needs to be verified.” To the question of whether President Trump should concede, she said, “No! Heavens no!” Later, she tweeted out the interview with the comment: “Ensuring election integrity is core to our democratic republic. Let’s get it right and protect the vote.”

Unlike cultures beaten down by totalitarian regimes, the people of America have strong political opinions and are willing to argue vociferously. Win or lose, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives take seriously their responsibility to speak and vote in a democratic republic. Precisely for this reason, they will not stand by while their vote is cancelled, and their voice is throttled.

Every illegal vote disenfranchises an American. Every stolen ballot is stolen from a citizen. Every phantom vote suppresses a flesh-and-blood person. It is a time to choose the real over the fraudulent, the truth over the lie, and justice over power. The world is watching.

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Jonathan Lange: Wyoming Health Officers Should Convince Citizens, Not Coerce

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

When driving down a highway, it is extremely dangerous to be overly afraid of the oncoming cars. Inexperienced drivers who do this can veer into the ditch. Experienced drivers take both threats seriously, and so stay safely in their proper lane.

The same balance needs to be maintained when dealing with any response to COVID-19. Responses that take into account only medical considerations—without considering the threats to spiritual and emotional health, economic health, and the health of the Republic itself—will be wrong. They risk doing more harm than good.

The need for a proper balance is the very reason for representative government. Our founding fathers knew that no single person can know everything about any situation, but that whatever a person does know can easily crowd out every other consideration. “Give a young boy a hammer and he will treat everything as a nail.” They also knew that both the well-meaning and the malicious can abuse power.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive,” said C.S. Lewis. He explained, “[T]hose who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Governmental checks and balances are designed to prevent such excesses.

According to a Facebook post, Dr. Ed Zimmerman, former Washakie County Health Officer (CHO), imposed a county-wide mask mandate against the expressed will of the elected commissioners. He was not the only one. During the previous week, 21 of Wyoming’s 23 CHOs imposed mask mandates. Many, if not most, ignored the protests of the citizens through their elected commissioners. Zimmerman explained his decision, “It appears to me the masking mandate was overwhelmingly supported by the members of the community.”

However it may appear to an unelected official, only the elected ones are answerable to the general public. Because public policy involves the balance of many considerations, county commissioners and mayors across the state were outraged.

In a grand shell game, CHOs pressured Governor Gordon to impose a statewide mask mandate through his State Health Officer, Alexia Harrist. Gordon, instead, wanted the mandates to be up to local jurisdictions. When elected county commissioners across the state declined his request, 21 CHOs circumvented them and sent variance requests to the state. In the end, every mask mandate is unilaterally imposed under the signature of Harrist.

For the record, the question is not whether there is a problem that needs to be addressed. The question is whether masks actually address the problem. The mask orders cite only one six-month-old scientific study.  “Chu, et. al. found that Face Coverings could reduce the risk of transmission…” It concluded: “Robust randomized trials are needed to better inform the evidence for these interventions.”

Luckily, three such robust studies were released in November. The New England Journal of Medicine published, “SARS-CoV-2 Transmission among Marine Recruits during Quarantine.” This rigorous study followed 1,848 Marine recruits through 28 days of lockdown, strict mask protocols and sanitary practices. During the study 51 (2.75%) of the participants tested positive for COVID-19. By comparison only 26 of 1,554 non-participants (1.67%) did. While not statistically significant, the raw percentages report that there was less spread among those who interacted without masks.

The Annals of Internal Medicine published “Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers.” This randomized, controlled trial was undertaken in Denmark with 6,024 participants randomly split into two groups. Of the 3,030 in the masked group, 42 (1.8%) tested positive during the course of the trial. By comparison, 53 (2.1%) tested positive from the control group. Again, the researchers concluded that the “difference was not statistically significant.”

Then, on November 20, Nature Communications published a study from China that screened nearly 10 million citizens of Wuhan. Although it found 1,174 close contacts with asymptomatic cases, it found no—zero, zip, nada—new cases spread from contact with asymptomatic carriers.

Every single Wyomingite wants to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the sheer desire to see an outcome does not make a mask order effective toward that end. Citizens deserve explanations, not edicts.

On October 12, the Wyoming Department of Health released “a list of evidence it relies on” in making decisions about face coverings, among other things. All seven of the laboratory studies cited studied the effectiveness of masks in reducing droplets. None studied the effectiveness of masks in reducing infection rates.

Now that the WDH has the benefit of three robust studies centered on the infection rate, it should incorporate this scholarship into its overall assessment and update its recommendations accordingly. Wyomingites will do the right thing if they are convinced it is right.

Health officers should convince citizens, not overrule them.

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Jonathan Lange: Contrary To AP Report, Wyoming Delegation Supports Trump’s Efforts To Count Legal Votes

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Multiple filings in state and federal courts alleging election fraud constitute the most momentous election news in two decades.

The 2020 election has the potential to be the biggest scandal in the history of our nation. By November 6, all three members of Wyoming’s delegation spoke in support of President Trump’s call to count every legal vote and discard every illegal ballot.

John Barrasso, Wyoming’s soon-to-be senior senator and Senate GOP Conference Chair, said: “As vote totals continue to update, Americans deserve confidence in a fair and transparent election. The President is right to ensure all legally cast votes be observed and counted.”

Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming’s first woman senator-elect, emailed through her spokeswoman, Kristin Walker: “Where there are instances of fraud, we must root them out, correct and hold those responsible to account. Anything less is a complete affront to the American rule of law and election integrity.”

Liz Cheney, Wyoming’s lone congresswoman and House GOP Conference chair, wrote: “Every legal vote must be counted. No illegal votes should be counted. The counting process must be transparent, and observers must have access. It’s the responsibility of the courts to apply the laws to resolve disputes. These things are necessary so that all Americans can have confidence in our election process.”

Nevertheless, the Associated Press reported that “top Wyoming elected officials refused to say Friday if they agreed with President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that Democrats are trying to steal the presidential election.” (Top Wyoming Republicans dodge question about Trump remarks, Mead Gruver, Nov. 6). This characterization bears little resemblance to the actual statements.

How can calls for a full counting of every legal vote be anything other than agreement with President Trump? It’s hard to read such misreporting as anything but a deliberate attempt to drive a wedge between Wyoming’s D.C. delegation and voters. Simultaneously, it props up the false narrative that Trump’s claims are “baseless.”

In a state where President Trump received 11 percent more votes than his 2016 victory, and which had the highest margin of victory of any state (69.9 percent), accusing a national politician of tepid support for Trump is certain to damage the relationship between representatives and constituents. While this misrepresentation may have been deliberately aimed at President Trump and Wyoming’s delegation, deception also causes collateral damage among the general population.

Lies disrupt communication. As a direct consequence, they destroy community. That is why everyone should be alarmed at the massive uptick in fraud and obfuscation that we have seen in the mainstream media and on social media in recent weeks and months.

No doubt the media outlets that conspired to hide the facts of Spy-gate, Hunter Biden’s laptop and President Trump’s legal claims were only trying to sway the election. Likely, they were not trying to dissolve friendships or split families. Nevertheless, they were far more successful in doing that than they were in swaying voters.

That is criminal. It should enrage every citizen.

The Fourth Estate—the free press—is supposed to unite communities around the truth, which enables them to hold their governing officials accountable. When the press becomes so partisan that it deliberately suppresses the truth in a bid to shield a politician from accountability, it divides and disenfranchises the community. In so doing, it has become the enemy of a free state and of every good citizen within it.

Truth is the bedrock upon which we stand as a united people. It holds us
together as families, churches, communities and nations. We are called to discover the truth, not invent it. It exists quite apart from personal perceptions or opinions. The more people there are who understand the truth, the more united is the society.

The upheaval we are witnessing in this year’s election process is far beyond the bounds of partisan bickering. Community-minded citizens from both sides of the aisle need to recognize that foreign governments, global media corporations and monied interests are openly attacking the community that is the United States of America.

Deliberately hiding factual reports and otherwise gaslighting the American public, their intent is to divide and conquer. Broken friendships, feuding families, deteriorating communities, and even divided churches, are only collateral damage as far as they are concerned. Power is their goal. Falsehood is their weapon.

But they cannot win if you stand for the truth. It is the job of every patriot of every political party to make truth, integrity and justice the highest priority. We must be more loyal to the truth than to any man. We must be more determined to find the facts than to win any election. We must be more willing to punish evildoers than to protect favored players.

Led by lies we cannot win. But united around the truth, we cannot lose.

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Jonathan Lange: The Legacy Of Roy Edwards, A Wyoming Man

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Roy Harlie Edwards, representative of House District 53, succumbed on November 2, after a brief illness. Wyomingites from all walks of life, and from all over the state, were saddened by the news. Condolences are extended to his wife, family and all who mourn his loss.

We also owe them our deepest gratitude for supporting Roy in his tireless work to make our little town with long streets into a better place. It is fitting that we mark Roy’s passing with reverence and gratitude. His life of service gave voice to the common man and served the entire state.

Roy was a true son of Wyoming. His ancestors homesteaded in the Gillette area and that is where he lived his entire life. Graduating from Gillette High School, he was blessed with a loving marriage and a faithful family. For three and a half decades he travelled from ranch to ranch for the Farmer’s Coop, servicing equipment. Then, he founded Edwards Tire Company and continued his passion for serving people.

His dedication to his wife and children led him out of the house and into the community. For Roy, that meant service in his church, first and foremost. Whether as deacon of Central Baptist Church or traveling across the world to distribute Christian printed material, he was always eager to tell people why he lived with such a big smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

Roy’s faith in Jesus was not privatized. It led him into public service. For 12 years he served on the Gillette City Council. After that, he served 8 years on the Campbell County Commission. In 2014 he was elected to Wyoming’s House of Representatives. That is where I came to know him. I first admired him from afar. More recently, I came to know him as a friend.

One might think that 34 years in public office would make a consummate politician out of any man. But Roy’s warm smile and firm handshake were not an act. He could talk to anybody—and often went out of his way to do so—but he never spoke a disingenuous word.

Roy’s success was not a function of following the crowd. Rather, his brand of politics was to speak boldly and create a following. For this reason, he was often dismissed as a hayseed simpleton. Those who made this mistake not only missed out on his friendship and wit, they also missed out on his profound wisdom.

A master of working behind the scenes, Roy built coalitions, persuaded people on the fence and encouraged colleagues to take the lead. Hardly anybody knew how hard he worked or how sharply he could perceive any situation. But for those who did, he was the epitome of humble and unassuming leadership.

Even in death his humble leadership is still being felt. As the Republicans of the House of Representatives meet in caucus next Saturday, they will be voting on the last project of Roy Edwards. During the final months of his life, he was the driving force that assembled one of the slates of house leadership that House Republicans will have the option to choose because of his forethought and leadership.

Of course, leadership without a vision does little good. At the heart of Roy’s vision was a passion for individual liberty. He had a deep understanding of how easily true freedom is mistaken for mere individualism. He could also see more keenly than most the connection between true human freedom and fiscal policy. The more that individuals control their own spending, the more communities thrive.

Roy’s colleagues tell me that he was consistently one of the most nay-saying legislators in Cheyenne. He voted against far more legislation than he supported. But that does not mean he wanted government to do nothing.

During his time in Cheyenne, Roy was the lead sponsor of 14 bills. Three of these, “Wyoming Legal Tender Act” (2018), “Ad valorem taxation” (2017), and “Senior center meal sales tax exemption” (2016) were signed into law. All of these removed unjust tax burdens from Wyoming citizens.

Roy also led three unsuccessful attempts to move some of Wyoming’s savings into precious metals. His constant concern was to be faithful with the resources God has given to the state today in order to leave a better Wyoming for those born tomorrow. In fact, Roy’s heart for the unborn can also be seen in his co-sponsorship of seven bills to protect the unborn. Three of these were signed into law.

Tax repeals, precious metals and pro-life legislation may strike you as a strange hodge-podge of legislative concerns. I assure you they are not. Roy was deeply imbued with the thinking of America’s founders. Like them, he allowed his faith to penetrate his politics deeply. This allowed him fully to integrate the practical and material needs of people with their social and spiritual needs.

That, I believe, is the greatest legacy that Wyoming has received from Roy Edwards. In our day ideologues are intent on driving faith out of the public square. For seven decades, we have been propagandized to believe that the “separation of church and state” is a constitutional principle. It is not. It is, rather, alien to America’s founding principles and illegitimately imported into American political discourse.

By internalizing this poisonous thought, conservatives often enter into public discourse with their most powerful weapon left in its sheath. They fight for a better community and state with their right arms tied behind their backs. Then, they wonder why truth, justice and goodness continue to lose ground to lies, corruption and evil.

Roy Edwards was not burdened by this false idea. He was unapologetic about his Christian faith and he fully integrated it into his public life. Community service, for him, was not a distraction from his faith. It was the life of faith itself. If this made him appear unsophisticated to some, that is their loss.

In the face of opposition from right and left, Roy had the quiet confidence to stay the course. His principled conservatism was unshakable because it was not rooted in shallow slogans, but in a deep understanding of the human condition.

Roy was a man of Wyoming because he championed its values, not simply because he was born here. He was an ardent defender of a way of life that settled this land and made her communities good and wholesome. By God’s grace we were given many years of his faithful service, and an example to follow into the future.

The Wyoming flag has been flying at half-mast all week. This is an honorable and fitting remembrance of Roy Edwards. When it is again hoisted to its full height, let us carry on with the quiet boldness of people who know where we come from and where we are going. That is the legacy of one Wyoming man.

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Jonathan Lange: Family is the first school says Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Before entering the pulpit, I was certified as a teacher both in Illinois and in Nebraska. Teacher training inculcated the principle that teachers are “in loco parentis,” that is, in the place of parents. Teaching is an extension of the home, not a replacement of it. 

While myriad faithful teachers work with parents in wholesome cooperation, too often evil cultural forces co-opt the classroom to undermine parental values. The Bible is mocked. The family is undermined. America’s worldview, oriented toward a transcendent God, is replaced by a worldview where random chance creates nothing of meaning, goodness or purpose.

Recently, Betsy DeVos, secretary of the U.S. Department of Education identified the French Revolution as the source of these cultural forces. It spawned the “view that education was a responsibility of government – not of parents.” Her recent speech at Hillsdale College got my attention.

“Let’s begin by reasserting this fundamental truth: the family is the ‘first school,’” said DeVos. “Many in Washington think that, because of their power there, they can make decisions for parents everywhere. In that troubling scenario, the school building replaces the home, the child becomes a pawn, and the state replaces the family.” 

In Washington, money is power—and the Department of Education controls $68 billion annually. Since its inception in 1980, it has spent over a trillion dollars of taxpayer money. By distributing money with strings, it drowns out the educational choices of parents in favor of multinational corporations and special interests, politicians and unions.

That inversion of priorities is what she wants to change. “When I took on this role, I said from day one that I’d like to work myself out of a job,” DeVos said. That means empowering parents, not politicians. “Our schools exist because we pay for them,” she said. Therefore, “I fight against anyone who would have government be the parent to everyone.”

Drawing on her own Dutch heritage, DeVos spoke about the legacy of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). In the wake of the French Revolution its impulse to displace the family with government influenced Dutch law. Education became the responsibility of the government alone—to the exclusion of parents. 

Kuyper came to the defense of Dutch parents and criticized the government that “claimed the right to set up the school for all children.” To the contrary, DeVos said, “the education of children is within the family’s sphere, so parents are ‘called’ to ‘determine the choice of school’ for their children.”

Kuyper worked for 43 years to return control of education dollars from the government to parents. Finally, in 1917, “Dutch families won a constitutional amendment,” said DeVos, “which gave children’s futures back to parents. And today, they are in control of their education dollars to pay for their kids to attend the schools of their choosing.” This is the legacy that she wants for America as well.

Readers of this column may remember 1917 as the very same year when the Communists in Mexico took over Roman Catholic schools and outlawed all religious education. In that same year, 1917, the Bolsheviks seized all the educational institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church. Government control of is a totalitarian theme.

DeVos understands that school choice lies at the very heart of human freedom. So do parents. A September survey from RealClear Opinion Research found that three out of four registered voters want school choice. This is a non-partisan issue. Independents (73%), Democrats (72%) and Republicans (76%) all agree. 

Parents of students in both public schools (78%) and private schools (79%), are equally interested in school choice. DeVos is not so much pushing an agenda as riding a wave. “If we get the family and its freedom right, everything else that’s wrong about our culture will right itself. Rebuild the family, restore its power, and we will reclaim everything right about America, and us.”

That is why the Department of Education actively supports the bipartisan School Choice Now Act. “At the end of the day,” said DeVos, “we want parents to have the freedom, the choices, and the funds to make the best decisions for their children.” 

The department also fought alongside the families of Montana all the way to the Supreme Court. In June they won the Espinoza v. Montana case. This case struck down the anti-religious “Blaine Amendments” designed to require parents who want a choice in education to pay twice. First, they have to pay for a public education, which they don’t want. Then, they have to pay again for the education of their choosing.

American families, with one voice, are demanding freedom to regain control over educational dollars. They know that a free society begins with educational freedom. 

Secretary DeVos is listening and responding. Will Wyoming’s legislators and educators join her?

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Jonathan Lange: Anonymous Attacks On A Wyoming Church Are Deeply Wrong

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

The hate-fueled riots of the past four months have left scores of churches vandalized, torched and desecrated. When war is waging in the streets, it is an especially dark kind of evil that targets people and institutions dedicated to the Prince of Peace.

Last summer’s rash of attacks on church property thankfully spared Wyoming churches. However, the same destructive hate visited our state in a different form. An anonymous attacker has published threats against Open Door Church in Gillette, Wyoming.

In letters addressed to the secretary of state, the governor, the attorney general, and to numerous media outlets in Gillette—along with the unsubstantiated threat of a filing a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—the author is urging multiple government agencies and media outlets to harass the church with investigations. Threatening the tax-exempt status of a church, the letter writer’s obvious intent is to close the doors of Open Door Church. He or she even goes so far as to address members of the church directly, insinuating that they should withhold offerings.

All of this is an over-the-top bid to intimidate the church into silence. Why? What has it done to deserve this financial terrorism? When COVID closed the public library to an event featuring local churchgoers running for public office, Open Door Church opened its doors to them to use its facility. Even though it was not an official church event, the anonymous letter writer would like to burn it down.

The spurious basis for this attack is that the appearance of four candidates for public office, “was conducted in a religious institution subject to non-profit status.” Note the word, “subject.” In this twisted view of the world, non-profit status subjugates churches to the government. It gets worse. The letter goes on to claim: “They acquire this [non-profit] status by promising not to engage in certain political lobbying or campaigning.”

In these two sentences, the anonymous letter writer expresses an astounding ignorance of federal laws governing the relationship of churches to the state. First, non-profit status is not “acquired” by churches. It is—and always has been—a pre-political reality—just as human beings have “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” because they are human beings, and not because the government grants it to them. So also, churches are exempt from taxes by virtue of their being churches and not from the conditional largess of the government. Churches in communist regimes are required to make promises as a condition of recognition. Churches in America are not.

The anonymous author can, perhaps, be excused for his ignorance because of the confusion introduced by the so-called “Johnson Amendment.” In 1954, future president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, introduced retaliatory legislation into the United States Senate.

Johnson was upset that some churches in Texas openly opposed his re-election bid. So, he persuaded his colleagues to insert a condition into IRS code for 501(c)3 corporations that stipulated they, “not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

This language, limiting the speech of any church that incorporates under paragraph 501(c)3, is obviously unconstitutional. For this reason, in 66 years, it has never been enforced. Not only has no court of law ever stripped a church of 501(c)3 status for violating this amendment, the IRS itself has never once taken a church to court.

Despite its obvious unconstitutionality, legislators have not repealed the amendment. Therefore, in a bid to challenge it in court, Pulpit Freedom Sunday was organized in the summer of 2008. Numerous ministers preached sermons that endorsed specific candidates. These sermons were recorded and sent to the IRS inviting a legal challenge. The IRS—even under the infamous directorship of Lois Lerner—refused to enforce the amendment.

The Johnson Amendment is not lawful, but it is a useful cudgel against religious voices. As long as it remains on the books, the mere threat of litigation can be used to intimidate churches into silence on the issues and candidates of the day. This is exactly how it is being used in Gillette. The anonymous letter writer is figuratively pointing a gun at Open Door Church in order to silence it. Whether he knows that it is an empty gun, or is misinformed enough to think it is loaded, it is still an assault on the church.

To be clear, even if a church officially hosts candidates for public office, it is not in violation of the law. Lest there be any doubt about this, Federal Election Commission (FEC) chair, Trey Trainor, took to the airwaves on September 15.

He noted that, “One of the first things he [President Trump] did when he came into office in 2017 was issue an executive order to the Department of the Treasury, telling them that they could no longer enforce that provision of the law and that religious organizations needed to be treated the same as every other organization. The Johnson Amendment is still on the books but, with lack of enforcement authority by the executive agency, it’s a law that’s not going to be enforced.”

Key to understanding why the Johnson Amendment is unenforceable is the phrase, “treated the same as every other organization.” According to Trainor, “the test that the Department of the Treasury uses now is: ‘If that same speech would come from a non-religious organization, could it be prosecuted?’” He goes on to answer his own question. “Clearly it would be First-Amendment activity for any other organization to engage in. And, therefore, the church should be able to engage in it.”

The entire interview is well worth listening to. Trainor explains that modern notions of the “separation of church and state” are clearly contrary to the First Amendment. Neither the text nor the intent of the U.S. Constitution can be construed as a prohibition of the church speaking to the state. The entire thrust of the Constitution is to prevent the state from interfering in the speech or activity of the church.

Of course, wise and faithful churches will limit their own speech to matters clearly delineated by the Holy Scriptures. They know that politicizing the Gospel is an affront to God and an abuse of His word. But they also know that it is an affront to God to avoid plain biblical teaching that confronts the rulers of this age. This is not only true of topics like abortion and sexuality. It is also true of specific rulers like Nebuchadnezzar and Herod Antipas.

The U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of churches to perform these duties and to decide these matters of doctrine. The government has no competence or authority to instruct churches about where they should draw these lines.

Not only is the government forbidden to criminalize the church’s speech, it is also forbidden to dampen it through financial pressure. That’s why the executive order specifically forbids “the imposition of any tax or tax penalty,” as well as “the delay or denial of tax-exempt status; the disallowance of tax deductions for contributions made to entities exempted from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of title 26, United States Code; or any other action that makes unavailable or denies any tax deduction, exemption, credit or benefit.”

In this political season, especially, churches should be assured that they are free to be faithful to God’s word without the threat of financial penalties. Attempts to intimidate churches into silence are despicable and shameful. No wonder the attacker is ashamed to sign his name.

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Jonathan Lange: Mexican Communist Experiment Worth Remembering

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By Jonathan Lange, Columnist

The Cristero War is history worth remembering.

This week marks 100 years since the end of Mexico’s revolution (1910-1920). It established a communist constitution that became a model for the USSR.

Even though this unfolded on our southern doorstep, most Americans are unaware of how our neighbors to the south suffered as a result. It is worth remembering—especially against the backdrop of the Marxist revolution being fomented in the streets of several American cities.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 was steeped in Marxist philosophy. Of its 137 articles, the U.S Library of Congress highlights three. Article 3 made a secular public education mandatory.

Article 27 declared that the government, alone, was the original owner of all land and water in Mexico. Article 123 seized power over the work force.

These Marxist provisions were directed against the family and the Church especially. Under Article 3, religious schools were put under government control and religious instruction was stricken from the curriculum. In its place children were instructed in sexual deviancy and atheistic dogma.

Article 27 was used to seize Church property throughout Mexico. Parochial schools were turned into government-run indoctrination centers. Monasteries, convents and seminaries were taken, and many churches were closed.

Using the powers of Article 123, not only did the government control wages and how many hours a person could work, it also socialized the economy by mandating insurance.

Using its power over labor, it even reached into the church. Foreign-born ministers were deported, and many others removed from their parishes in order to reach the target of one priest per 30,000 citizens.

All this was done under a fig leaf of religious liberty. Article 24 promised: “Every man shall be free to choose and profess any religious belief,” but only, “as long as it is lawful and it cannot be punished under criminal law.” 

Then Article 130 instituted a strict “separation of Church and state.” This made public preaching unlawful while also outlawing the mention of “politics” from the pulpit.

This enabled the government to silence the church’s voice on any number of topics. Clerics were also specifically denied a jury trial. This meant that they could be arrested and executed on the spot. Many were.

Plutarcho Elias Calles was particularly anti-religious. His virulent prosecution of the religious populace sparked widespread resistance. Christians protested by petition, boycott, and other peaceful means. But the Calles government treated these acts as sedition and forcibly closed their churches. 

In 1926 a group of 400 parishioners retook a church in Guadalajara. After the parishioners ran out of ammunition and surrendered, the government stormed the church and killed the priest and his vicar. This was the opening skirmish in the Cristero War.

Cristero is a name deriving from the last words of Father Rodrigo Alemán. With a noose around his neck, his executioners shouted at him, “who lives?”

He responded “Cristo Rey” (Christ the King.) They tightened the noose and repeated the process three times until he died with this confession on his lips. 

Cristo Rey became the rallying cry of a war that claimed 90,000 lives over three years. It ended when the government agreed to back off from enforcing all of the anti-religious provisions of the 1917 constitution.

Even after the U.S.-brokered armistice, thousands more Cristeros were assassinated.

It was not until 1992 that Mexico repealed the anti-religious articles of the Constitution. Today, a century after the Marxist revolution, Mexico is still paying a steep price.

The decades-long devastation of religious and family life continues to have its oppressing effect.

This sad tale is not that far from us. Recent riots that began by targeting Civil War statues have already pivoted to the destruction of churches and church symbols.

The mainstream media has been criminally negligent in its failure to report nearly 50 attacks on church property in two months. 

The communist revolutions in France, Mexico, Russia and elsewhere have a common thread. Marxism refuses to admit individual responsibility as a cause of social problems.

Instead, it locates all problems in impersonal classes and target groups that must be eradicated. For this reason, Marxism must war against Christianity just to prop up its own murderous ideology.

What happened south of our border could also happen here. Property rights (including gun rights), free enterprise, virtuous education and religious liberty are not merely isolated special interests.

They form an integrated worldview where personal responsibility to love the neighbor stands as a bulwark against Marxism’s blind rage against disfavored groups.

Ideas have consequences. Evil ideas have evil consequences. 

Now is the time to understand the ideas that are driving the current wave of senseless destruction. They are neither new nor untried.

They have been infecting and destroying societies for over a century. It’s time to understand them and decisively reject them.

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