Warford 2020

The candidate forum at a Palmdale mosque should not have been shut down.

As chronicled in the Antelope Valley Press this past week, the mosque was hosting a forum when a group of people, some wearing Trump shirts, came in and disrupted the event by continually shouting despicable things.

The deputies came and told event organizer Kamal al-Khatib that he could either continue the event with the protesters there or end it.

I think a third option would be better in these cases: If members of the audience refuse to allow candidates to speak, haul them out and charge them with disturbing the peace.

The First Amendment right to free speech is crucial to our democracy — no coincidence it came first in the Bill of Rights — but like all rights it has limits.

Much depends on circumstance. As the old saying goes, “Your right to swing your arm ends at the tip of the other man’s nose.” In other words, you are free to go out on the street and swing your arms, but if you punch someone, you’ve committed a crime.

You have a right to practice your religion, but if your religious practice includes, say, human sacrifice, you have a problem.

I’ve written many times about the repulsive habit of some on the left of shouting down conservative speakers on college campuses.

Unfortunately, college administrators too often let them get away with it, which only emboldens them to do it again and intimidates anyone who is conservative — or even anyone who doesn’t perfectly toe the left line — from speaking their minds.

If someone opposes speakers or organizers of an event, they should come to the event with protest signs and take their turn and speak their mind. Key phrase: “take their turn.”

That is free speech. They can even get up and say nasty, reprehensible things. But don’t tread on the free speech rights of the other people in the room.

What about the free speech rights of the candidates at last week’s forum? What about the free speech rights of the other members of the audience?

What right does this group of protesters have to prevent the others from expressing their right to speak?

What is to prevent this group who disrupted the mosque forum from doing it again at other forums? According to reports, they have done it before in other communities.

Will they now become the arbiters of what the public can hear from candidates?

At Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address, police removed an anti-gun protester for shouting out from the gallery during President Donald Trump’s speech.

The man was the father of one of the students who was killed in the Parkland High School shooting in Florida, so he has reason to feel strongly on the issue of guns.

It doesn’t matter. It does not give him the right to disrupt the State of the Union Address by the president of the United States, no matter how much he dislikes the president.

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything. There is a time — and a reasonable way — for expressing your First Amendment rights.

The people who disrupted the mosque forum need to learn that — or be hauled out of the room.

William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

(1) comment


Thank you so much for this thoughtful piece. Nothing is more American than a candidate forum. Thousands of them go on in the US every election cycle. On the other hand, nothing could be more unAmerican than preventing the free flow of information vital to making informed choices in our elections. Bravo for this opinion piece!

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