Josie Weiland, senior at Stevens High School, challenged legislators to defend Senate Bill 128 at a Rapid City crackerbarrel yesterday. SB 128 is Senator Phil Jensen's (R-33/Rapid City) effort to pervert the First Amendment into permission to deny others' civil rights, not to mention nullify federal law and subjugate the judicial branch to the legislative branch.
Here is Weiland's challenge to the attending legislators and to all South Dakotans:
Senate Bill 128 is an unproductive act of discrimination that allows for social oppression of the LGBT community, and is a clear violation of human dignity. It violates John Locke's social contract, which is the very foundation of the U.S. Constitution, which states: every person is entitled to the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of happiness, unless the individual takes another individual's unalienable rights away. The bill fails to give warrant as to how this will actually be benefiting South Dakota and is a poor reflection of our elected officials to be focusing time on creating bills that disconnect our communities and serve to maintain oppression. It is certainly not allowing "liberty and justice for all". Our elected leaders should allocate our time and money into issues that actually benefit the community such as Common Core and expansion of Medicaid. THESE are issues that should be prioritized. The Republican Party and sponsors of this bill want less government involvement, so please, what is the justification behind THIS exemption? [Josie Weiland, crackerbarrel, School of Mines, Rapid City, 2014.02.01].
Mention John Locke, and you're sailing over most legislators' heads. Here's how Senator Jensen responded:
Senate Bill 128 is an anti-bullying free speech bill. We've all heard recently Colorado had a bake shop, cake shop, cake decorating business that they refused on their convictions, their religious beliefs to not provide a wedding cake for a gay couple. Well, you'd think that the Constitution would protect these folks from lawsuits and harassment, but they're going through the wringer on this thing.
This bill is just a proactive bill that will protect businesses and individuals from the bullying by the anti-straight folks... [Senator Phill Jensen, crackerbarrel, 2014.02.01].
At this point, members of the audience laughed. Weiland did not. Sounding incredulous at the absurdity of the adult at the front of the room, she interrupted:
Excuse me, anti-straight folks? This is a proactive bill that decreases bullying? [Weiland, 2014.02.01]
Weiland understands Senator Jensen is offering unabashed GOP Newspeak. SB 128 grants bigots legal protection for straight bigots to engage in verbal and economic bullying against homosexuals. It also protects gays who would bully straights in the same way. SB 128 itself is bullying.
Senator Jensen plowed ahead, without acknowledging Weiland any more than he had in his opening words:
The Attorney General happened to send me an email that said we're going to have to modify section 4 to read that the AG shall defend the constitutionality of sections 1 and 2 of this act as authorized by law. Otherwise [inaudible] authoroty issue and a fiscal impact issue [Jensen, 2014.02.01].
Senator Jensen is referring to the current wording of SB 128, which would require the Attorney General to defend bigots in court at taxpayer expense. AG Marty Jackley appears unconcerned about bullying and civil rights, but at least he's watching out for his office's budget.
Senator Jensen's "response" drew disheartening applause. So did the following statement by Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City):
My stance on all of this is that I would like to have everyone who wants repsect for their values and their causes to have the same respect for my values and my causes. Because I am a very proud Christian conservative and follow the teachings of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ™ does not make me a bigot, and I object to people who think I am a bigot [Rep. Mike Verchio, 2014.02.01].
Being proud, Christian, conservative, or a follower of Jesus does not make anyone a bigot or a bully. Acting like Senator Jensen and Rep. Verchio does. Weiland understands that difference. She offers this rebuttal online:
I never mentioned the word Christianity or bigot in my speech and neither of them answered my question, or gave warrant as to how they were upholding the name of "Christianity". Now the responses from the gentleman were so un-Christlike, I have a hard time getting myself to see the other side. I got extremely emotional after all of this because I realized that this is ACTUALLY how these men think. I am extremely appalled and disgusted by this bill, and would encourage you all to do something about it too! [Josie Weiland, Facebook post, 2014.02.01]
Weiland tried to do something more about it after the crackerbarrel. She tried talking logic face to face with her Senator. She found it rather difficult:
After the meeting, I tried to confront Sen. Jensen about his bill, and after chasing him down for a while (because he was literally running away) I caught up to him. I asked him this: "Based on the premise of this bill (free speech), you wouldn't object to a bill that protected business owners from legal suit if they chose to deny Christians services?"
He told me he didn't know what I meant and started quickly walking away. So I told him to replace the words "sexual orientation" with Christianity in his bill, and according to the warrants of it, he would thereby have to agree.
Instead, he didn't say anything.
So I called him out and said "You're just going to ignore this? Ignore the public opinion?" (after all, I am in his district) He replied, "I suppose I am just going to ignore it." The worst thing about all of this? Sen Phil Jensen of District 33 runs unopposed [Weiland, online, 2014.02.01].
Weiland turns 18 this year. She's still too young to run against Senator Jensen (got to be 21 to serve in Pierre), but she will get to vote against him, and get her friends to vote against him, if some brave Democrat from District 33 will give her the chance.