Jack Bergman is a retired Marine General, now representing Michigan’s first congressional district. A lifetime of serious service to his country.
Like most representatives, he holds town halls during Congressional breaks–and takes the questions and, sometimes, the heat.
Republicans like Bergman are getting a lot of heat, much of it organized and funded by left-wing groups.
That could be free speech–the right to speak and assemble, the right to pose hard questions to their elected representative.
Or it could be the opposite of free speech–denying others the right to speak and question their representative
That denial is exactly what protesters from the leftist group “Indivisible” did at Bergman’s town hall.
The group, Indivisible, sprang up in December with a “practical guide to resisting the Trump Agenda.”
Rep. Bergman’s town hall began with a prayer, led by a pastor. Nothing unusual there. Many meetings in the Midwest and South begin that way. As President Obama put it so sympathetically and eloquently, “They get bitter. They cling to guns or religion.” (Guardian) Apparently, Indivisible has the same charitable view.
It’s a free country, pardner, think whatever you want. Unfortunately, Indivisible goes further–and that is not okay. In fact, it tramples on others’ freedoms:
Protesters from the organizing group “Indivisible” started a congressional town hall meeting off on a contentious note when they heckled a minister offering the opening prayer.
Congressman Jack Bergman was holding a meeting with constituents in Gaylord, Michigan on Thursday.
As Grace Baptist Church Assistant Pastor Dr. Derek Hagland began a prayer, several in the crowd shouted “separation of church and state” loudly, drowning out the pastor’s words. –The American Mirror (article here)
Besides violating the First Amendment while ostensibly defending it, Indivisible fundamentally misunderstands the concept of “separation of church and state,” whose purpose is not to prevent a public displays of religion at voluntary events but to prevent the state establishing one religion or prohibiting another.
Btw, the phrase “separation of church and state” is not a constitutional one. It came some years later, in Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists. In the brief letter (here), he was giving his interpretation of the First Amendment language that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
There are legitimate disagreements about how far the state should go in limiting religious practices that conflict with other laws or rights.
This case, however, is not one of them. Not by a long shot. If a congressman wants to begin his town hall with a prayer, that’s his right and it is the right of his constituents to pray, not pray, or perhaps consider it an additional reason to vote for or against the congressman.
But it is not there right to prevent the prayer or shout down others who are not harming them.
To put it bluntly, the people who did this are not just bullies. They are idiots.