Letter: Rights under the First Amendment may depend on who you are

Dennis McDonald
Flagler County, Florida

Dear Historic City News editor;

There was a recent article about an Ormond Beach walker being personally violated when he takes his four-mile walk each day.  It sent me back to my Constitution Handbook to reassure myself that what was being claimed as a violation of his First Amendment rights was NOT.

As a refresher, I offer: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  Does this cross-prevent him from “free exercise” of his chosen religion while on his daily walk?

What the Ormond Beach walker should really focus on is that if he reads a little farther in that very important First Amendment he will read “or abridging the freedom of speech, or press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I ask, does the cross on this now retired church stifle any of these rights for this American? No. Clearly, we live in an age where Comprehension is a lost commodity.

The reason I focused on this article was its mention of the First Amendment.  I have a keen interest because I have first-hand knowledge that the First Amendment Rights of all Floridians are being “abridged” daily by the Florida Ethics Commission, who are appointed by the Governor.  This is being done with full knowledge of Representative Renner and Senator Hutson

Allow me to explain. If a Citizen of Florida “petitions the Government for a redress of grievances”, in this case, before the Florida Ethics Commission, that Petitioner may never be allowed to speak during the Ethics proceedings.

This VIOLATION of the First Amendment was brought into focus in April of 2017. The Ethics Commission had an agenda discussion and was convinced that it would take “too much time” to allow the party that made the complaint to be heard. Since when are Justice and the American legal system time-sensitive?

The Commission, in this case, did hear from the lawyer representing the respondent. He has represented Ethics defendants in over 700 cases! No other lawyer in Florida even comes close to his number of cases and, of course, he would not be interested in hearing any rebuttal impacting his big $$$ business.

But, the question for the Ethics Commission members to decide was “what is a fair judicial process”. They failed again in 2017 by not allowing both parties equal participation in the process. The Ethics Commission, in this case, allowed the Legislature and Florida Governor to continue an unethical practice.

This Tallahassee lawyer, who advocates stifling all opposing parties, is the same lawyer that wrote the memo to all Florida Supervisor of Elections offices in the Gore/Bush 2000 national election that attempted to REJECT the ballots of over 150,000 overseas Florida servicemen and servicewomen.

Two of those Votes may have been from Governor DeSantis and Representative Renner while they were on active duty.  Fortunately, VP Candidate Joe Lieberman is an honorable man and said he would never reject overseas ballots from our military. 

The Herron Memo, on the other hand, was a dark, dishonorable chapter in Florida History and a near violation of our military’s right to cast their ballots while on duty protecting us and our Constitution.

The perpetrator of this attempted “theft” of our military’s votes is alive and operating as one of the capital insiders being allowed to do “business as usual” in Tallahassee by our elected “representatives” regardless of party affiliation.

Let us stay focused on real threats to the First Amendment like trashing over 150,000 overseas military ballots and a Florida Ethics Commission that can operate like the self-imposed Banana Republic.