Opinion: A clear and present danger to your constitutional rights

Washington state is facing a clear and present danger to constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of conscience. Everyone who cares about our foundational values needs to get involved.

House Bill 1333 was written and promoted by the current Washington State Attorney General. The bill establishes a commission charged with developing “a comprehensive public health and community-based framework for responding to domestic violent extremism.”

A lot of troubling jargon there. The misuse of the term “public health” isn’t particularly new; state bureaucrats have been trying to use “public health” as a rationalization for unconstitutional overreach since the first COVID outbreaks were reported. Honestly, even before that.

Much more disturbing is the newly fashionable bureaucratic term “domestic violent extremism.”

This new term echoes “domestic violence”— and many people fall for that echo — but means something else. What exactly does it mean? House Bill 1333 doesn’t define the fashionable jargon clearly, but the concept seems to include the use of “disinformation and misinformation” and “early signs of radicalization.”

What do those words mean? Well, the attorney general will direct his commission to decide. OK. So, who is on the commission? Here’s what the bill says:

The commission must consist of the following members:

(a) Four legislators…;

(b) A representative of the governor’s office appointed by the governor;

(c) A representative from the attorney general’s office;

(d) A representative with expertise in public health, appointed by the state attorney general;

(e) Six representatives from organizations … appointed by the state attorney general, which may include but is not limited to the following:

(i) A representative from the black/African American community;

(ii) A representative from the Muslim community;

(iii) A representative from the Jewish community;

(iv) A representative from the Asian or Asian American community;

(v) A representative from the Sikh community;

(vi) A representative from the Latino/a/x community;

(vii) A representative from the LGBTQ community;

(ix) A representative from the general immigrant/refugee community; and

(x) A representative from the African community….

That’s a total of 13 members — eight appointed by the state attorney general. The deck is stacked.

Strangely, the bill states the AG will choose six members from a non-exhaustive list of nine identity-politics groups. (Never mind the out-of-sequence numbering; that’s a typo in the current version of the bill.) So, at least three of those groups aren’t going to be represented on the commission.

According to the bill, the duties of the attorney general’s commission include:

  • Identifying community-led and evidence-based solutions to combat disinformation and misinformation, address early signs of radicalization, and develop public health-style responses;
  • Evaluating any future data-tracking recommendations around domestic violent extremism, including how data is collected, what triggers data collection, and …
  • Evaluating current legal tools, both civil and criminal, and making recommendations for potential new legislation and regulations to address domestic violent extremism.

The bill’s combination of the terms “combat,” “public health” and “disinformation” should give pause to all free people. The history and traditions of this nation — and this state — prohibit the forced silence and loss of our freedoms this bill would produce. In fact, the Washington State Constitution prohibits exactly this sort of government overreach. Article 1 of the State Constitution includes the following sections:

Section 5. Freedom of Speech.
Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right.

Section 7. Invasion of Private Affairs or Home Prohibited.
No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.

Section 11. Religious Freedom.
Absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship, shall be guaranteed to every individual, and no one shall be molested or disturbed in person or property….

In these ways, the state constitution protects the foundational rights to free speech, privacy, and freedom of conscience even more clearly and explicitly than the U.S. Constitution does. And that last part — about “freedom of conscience”— is particularly important.

 “Freedom of conscience” is even broader than freedom of religion. It means you are free to believe what you believe, even if that is what some bureaucrat calls “disinformation” or “radicalization.” I think it applies especially to some bureaucrat’s notion of “radicalization.”

House Bill 1333’s talk of “combat,” “disinformation,” “radicalization” and “domestic violent extremism” is the beginning of authoritarianism. Of totalitarianism. A free people must reject such rotten stuff.

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
RepresentativeJimWalsh.com
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
jim.walsh@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7806 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000