It's not exactly local to the Valley, but the news out of Texas over the past couple of months has been so uniformly biased that I thought "The Messenger", as the Voice of the People, might wish to restore some degree of balanced journalism. After all, if the BATF can get away with raiding a church in Waco, it can get away with raiding yours in Wilmot or West Lebanon.
In America, the tradition of religious tolerance is so strong that the Founders wrote it into the Nation's Supreme Law: they thought it so important as to place it even above Free Speech, right at the head of Amendment #1:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
How many laws can legally be written, about the starting or practice of religion? - read my lips, NONE AT ALL. Zero. Zip. "NO LAW", period.
Why, we might wonder, did they feel it so important to be so emphatic? - not, we may be sure, so that everyone would be free to go on Sundays to one of a set of well-established, existing, conventional denominations. We can be certain of that because by definition, none of those were subject to any intolerance.
No, it must have been written expressly to protect the equal rights of those religions that were and are Unorthodox, unusual, newly-founded, unknown. The sort that seem to many of us a little suspect or bizzarre. The sort that we fear may brainwash our adolescent kids.
Yet "give me a child until he is aged five, and I'll have him for life" was not spoken by a Branch Davidian, but by a highly honored Roman Catholic. Religions differ not so much in the degree that they mold impressionable young minds, but in the specific doctrines or impressions they promote or teach.
And the First Amendment expressly places ALL such activity (particularly the sort you or I might not like) OFF LIMITS to government.
But the agents of the BATF, back in January, either ignored or had not read that part of the Supreme Law which they were all sworn to uphold and defend. They went in anyway to the Koresh Compound, armed to the teeth, in a surprise attack. Instead of protecting these absolute rights to live in religious peace, they made themselves the principle violators of that right.
And not a single TV network or major newspaper drew attention to their illegal action. What use, one wonders, is the freedom and independence of the Press when all they do is to parrot government news releases?
The only possible way government could justify intervention in ANY religious group would be upon hearing testimony that the group was troubling NON-members. And I'd agree that that would include members who have changed their mind, want to quit and are being forcibly detained. The reason that intervention on those grounds would be legit, is that under those circumstances, the actions of the group would no longer be religiously confined to its own members.
No such testimony had been presented in Waco. Even the rumors of child molestation (a sure fire hot button in these nasty, witch-hunting days) had to admit that nothing was done without parental consent and that nobody had asked to leave and been prevented.
Anyway, the BATF went in, guns drawn, and found the defenders well prepared. Would that we were all that ready to repel government intruders. Our freedoms would be a whole lot more secure if we were... and our taxes a whole lot lower. In so doing, the BATF violated two other vitally important Constitutional rights. Consider Amendment #2: "... the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Using the excuse of one of the 20,000 "laws" that infringe that right anyway, the BATF went to seize weapons the government did not want these people to possess. Nobody alleged that any weapon would be used except in defense: no threats to outsiders had been given. The Branch Davidians were well prepared to defend themselves, no more. So even the excuse for the attack had no proper, lawful basis.
Then consider Amendment #4: "... no warrants shall issue, but... particularly describing the... things to be seized."
It's not been well enough reported that the BATF went in with a GENERAL warrant - in effect, a government fishing license - not the "particular" one required under that supreme law.
Now, that is crucially important. In this country, government is expressly forbidden to break in to your house on the vague suspicion that you might have something illegal. The Brits had been doing just that to the Colonials at will, and the Founders were determined to have none of it in the new Republic.
But the BATF hadn't read that bit either, and apparently nor have any of the politicians behind them nor the media who reported it.
Folks, when our government violates the supreme law and nobody cares enough to report the fact, we are all in deep trouble.
The basic fault at Waco was committed on the first day of the long siege, and all the politicians were so stubborn in refusing to admit how illegal had been the BATF action, that they kept up intolerable pressure for 51 days, with results that are only too well-known. I have no love for any of Koresh's doctrines that I've heard about, but we did a really lousy job of protecting his absolute right to hold and teach them.
There was one exception to the general blame-the-victim mentality of press and public; right from the start, Texas Libertarians were out demonstrating against this government intolerance and lawbreaking, and were quite well reported in the immediate locality. Too bad their actions were not broadcast nationally.
If they had been, perhaps 25 young kids and 60 or so adults would now be breathing the fresh air of Spring, instead of being corpses, burned to a crisp, courtesy of the United States Government and of our tax dollars at work.