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Opinion: Red state senators step up to the plate

Heading into the 2022 midterm elections, the red versus blue state battle that’s been brewing is about to go into overdrive.

That was on full display at last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when Republican senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas blistered Attorney General Merrick Garland for his memo to Justice Department employees about intervening in school board affairs involving threats and intimidation against board members.

While Democrats try to make Donald Trump the boogeyman regarding progressive/socialist policies, Republicans have been coordinating their attacks against federal governments over regulation of business and looming taxes while defending the parents’ First Amendment rights to speak freely and petition their local school boards. The intense grilling of the nation’s top law officer came against the backdrop of the high-profile case in Loudon County, Virginia, when a parent, Scott Smith, was charged with disorderly conduct after demanding answers regarding how his daughter was allegedly sexually assaulted in a girls’ bathroom at school by a boy who had reportedly been wearing women’s clothing.

Garland’s Oct. 4 memo was issued after the Biden administration received a letter from the National School Boards Association that claimed some parental behavior may amount to domestic terrorism. The NSBA has since issued an apology for that letter, saying, “There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”

During his high voltage delivery at the hearing last week, Sen. Cotton said Garland’s memo to his Justice Department employees was inspired by a letter from the National School Boards Association and called his directive to Justice Department employees “shameful.”

The senator said he was thankful that Garland is not on the Supreme Court and that he should resign in disgrace immediately. Cotton’s court comment is in reference to Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama in 2016 following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate, which was controlled by Republicans at the time, refused to hold a Garland nomination hearing until after the presidential election. When President Donald Trump assumed office, he promptly withdrew the nomination and appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the court.

Sen. Hawley joined in the call for Garland to resign.

“You have weaponized the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Hawley charged. “Your U.S. attorneys are now collecting and cataloging all the ways that they might prosecute parents like Mr. Smith because they want to be involved in their children’s education and they want to have a say in their elected officials. It’s wrong, it is unprecedented to my knowledge in the history of this country, and I call on you to resign.”

In Missouri, which Hawley represents, the state’s school boards association announced that it was leaving the National School Boards Association. That decision was applauded by Gov. Mike Parson. who said in a statement that when it comes to the children’s education, parents have a right to know what is being taught and to have their voices heard.

Parson said that recent actions by NSBA to paint parents as radicals and solicit unwarranted action by the Biden administration shows a clear disconnect with Missouri Schools.

“We appreciate MSBA standing up for our students, teachers and parents alike and recognizing that Missouri will play no part in criminalizing concerned parents,” the governor stated. “This action shows Missouri schools take parents’ First Amendment rights seriously and will protect Missourians’ abilities to speak freely and petition their local school boards. The state looks forward to working with MSBA in the future to continue advancing quality K-12 education and promoting a transparent school system.”

Parson has been a proactive governor in a number of conservative causes. In the last year he has signed a bill criminalizing abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy; allowed schools districts to decide whether or not to close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; and limited postal voting during the 2020 U.S. elections.

During his questioning of Garland before the Senate Judiciary, Sen. Cruz accused Garland of failing to do research before issuing the “abusive” memorandum instructing the Department of Justice to investigate parents who have threatened school board members.

“There is a difference between law and politics, and General Garland, you know the difference between law and politics,” Cruz stated. “Law is based on facts. It is impartial. It is not used as a tool of political retribution. This memo was not law. This memo was politics.”

Four decades ago, Ronald Reagan reminded us that our freedoms are not something to take for granted but rather, they are something we have to fight for and protect as a nation.

“It is time that we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers and if we will pass on to these young people the freedoms we knew in our youth, because freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It has to be fought for and defended by each generation, the 40th president stated. ”

Today, the proactive parents in Loudon County as well as strong elected leaders like Senators, Cruz, Hawley and Cotton are trying to protect and preserve those freedoms.

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.