As Christians, as people of faith, we should understand in our bone marrow that the violence at the Trump events threatens free speech in America. Furthermore we must warn that free speech is the trusted and treasured friend and guardian of religious freedom and soul liberty.
Over the past few days, as Donald Trump has emerged as the leading candidate to be the Republican presidential nominee, attempts by radical left-wing organizations like MoveOn.org have attempted, with limited success, to disrupt Trump's political rallies.
What MoveOn.org and others are financing and encouraging is disruptive, destructive, and devastating to free speech in this country. Assaults on free speech are always wrong, but they are particularly incendiary when they erupt during a time of deep political turmoil and pervasive disillusionment with the political process.
For example, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll reveals that "Two-thirds of registered voters say they couldn't see themselves supporting Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner, while 56% say they couldn't cast a ballot for the leading Democratic contender Mrs. Clinton. . ." (WSJ 3/9/16).
That level of disillusionment with the entire political process, especially when so many Americans are voting for drastic change in the federal government, undermines democracy and threatens the essential confidence of the people in their government necessary to make a representative government work.
The assaults by radical left-wing groups appear to be aimed not at peaceful protest, but violent disruption. When I see the students in Chicago seeking to suppress the freedoms of assembly and speech of Americans with whom they disagree, my thoughts are immediately drawn to the terrible scenes at colleges and universities across America (like the University of Missouri) over the past few years, where students, encouraged and enabled by radical professors, have sought to censor, shout down, intimidate, and silence the free speech of anyone who doesn't conform to their far left progressive world-view. Such behavior is totalitarian. Such Saul Alinsky-style tactics must be denounced as un-American and dangerous.
Frankly, these anti-democratic fascists, with their storm trooper tactics, are actually helping Mr. Trump. Their antics are causing a backlash, just as similar behavior did in the 1960s.
Mr. Trump, however, must be held to account for not doing more to call for restraint among his followers. The demonstrators may have behaved loutishly, but Mr. Trump has the obligations of decency and leadership to call for restraint from his supporters, no matter the provocation. When "the Donald's" defense is that most of the time he did not encourage supporters to punch a protestor in the face and generally rough-up demonstrators says more than perhaps we want to know about the real Donald Trump. The fact that Trump said that he would investigate paying the legal fees of a North Carolina supporter who sucker-punched a protestor and said on camera that next time they might have to kill the demonstrator, is both breathtakingly irresponsible and inflammatory behavior in someone who aspires to be the president of the United States.
Having said that, Mr. Trump and his supporters have every right to say what they want to say. Mr. Trump says many things with which I disagree, but we must defend to the death his right to say them. The answer to speech with which you disagree is more speech, not censorship or violence.
When you seek to silence the speech of others, demonstration becomes disruption, and protest becomes suppression.
Such behavior is un-American and dangerous. And, every time it happens, no matter the provocation, another log is being tossed on the funeral pyre being erected for free speech in America.
Religious freedom will burn up as well.
I remember speaking at a forum in Romania in 1990 after the downfall of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. I will never forget sitting with the new Romanian attorney general in his office. He pulled down a copy of the U.S. Constitution from his bookshelf, read aloud the First Amendment to me, and said, with tears in his eyes, "We want what you have."
I thought then, and I still think now, that too many Americans take our freedoms far too much for granted and do not understand how fragile and precious they are, and how quickly they can be diminished or lost.
Now is the time for all Americans to come to the defense of their God-given, government recognized and protected liberties.