Take a trip to St. Mary's City and you're sure to see the historical marker which reads:
Here, for the first time in America, men and women of differing faiths lived in peace and goodwill, practicing freedom of conscience, according to Lord Baltimore's "Instructions to Colonists," 1633. "Freemen Assembled," of various beliefs, changed practice into law by approving "An Act Concerning Religion," 1649.At the entrance to St. Mary's College, stands the Freedom of Conscience statue, a gift to St. Mary's City from the counties of Maryland commemorating, in the sculptor's words, " the liberation of the spirit that had for so long been bound by intolerance. ... The torch represents the flame that kindled this fire of religious freedom throughout the world."
Although the original decrees were meant primarily to protect the rights of different Christian denominations to practice their faith freely, Marylanders generally take credit for pioneering the concept of "toleration", or freedom of conscience, in America. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights could be summed up as the codification of freedom of conscience.
Canadian chief justice Brian Dickson described the centrality of freedom of conscience to all our freedoms and our system of government:
It should also be noted, however, that an emphasis on individual conscience and individual judgment also lies at the heart of our democratic political tradition. The ability of each citizen to make free and informed decisions is the absolute prerequisite for the legitimacy, acceptability, and efficacy of our system of self-government. It is because of the centrality of the rights associated with freedom of individual conscience both to basic beliefs about human worth and dignity and to a free and democratic political system that American jurisprudence has emphasized the primacy or "firstness" of the First Amendment.So with that kind of history, one would expect Maryland to be a place where independent thought and action are not only tolerated but cherished, right?
Somewhere in Naptown, Baltimore state delegate Curt Anderson is still searching for his dignity after it was stripped from him by the Maryland Democratic Party and its thought police in the General Assembly.
What heinous crime did he commit that caused fellow Baltimore state delegate Melvin Stukes to declare he had "disrespected the city delegation"? What led another member of the Baltimore delegation, Cheryl Glenn, to declare he had aligned himself with "The Antichrist of the Democratic Party"?
Delegate Anderson, a Democrat, joined and was named vice chairman of the Maryland House of Delegates Tea Party Caucus. Not for long, however.
The uproar over this black delegate's actions was shrill and sustained, and he quit under pressure. Almost as a way of explaining himself, he said he felt as though he "joined the Ku Klux Klan" but was simply responding to President Barack Obama's call for elected officials to reach across party lines. "I guess I reached too far with this one," he declared.
Where do I start with this one?
First of all, anyone who still spouts the "Tea Party is racist" hogwash is either a demagogue or an idiot, and that include Delegate Anderson.
It is unconscionable to smear in such scurrilous fashion the millions of decent Americans who are exercising their First Amendment rights, asking to keep more of THEIR hard-earned money - no, you greedy politicians in Annapolis and Washington, it's NOT your money - and demanding accountability to our Constitution and our system of self-government.
In fact, if I were Delegate Mike Smigiel, the chairman of the Tea Party Caucus, I would stand on the floor of the House of Delegates and demand that Delegate Anderson, and all his former cohorts who went after him and insulted the Tea Party movement in the process, apologize for insinuating a link between the caucus and a racist domestic terrorist group.
Why, that's like saying the Ku Klux Klan was established by Democrats and conducted its reign of terror primarily under, and often with the tacit approval of, state and local governments run by Democrats.
Well, no, that's actually true and can be empirically proven.
Everyone knows by now that the racism meme is a desperate tactic employed by the Democrats because they are losing in the marketplace of ideas. While it may play well in the land of unicorns and rainbows, and among the obsequiously loyal black electorate, it's driving independents away.
If there's a school of political thought that considers it a winning strategy to hack off people whose votes you need by calling them names, I don't intend to enroll.
For the record, the Tea Party isn't a political party. It's a movement built around a philosophy of self-governance and individual liberty, free markets and limited constitutional government. If you think it's an arm of the GOP, ask all those GOP senators and congressmen who are home enjoying an early retirement today because the Tea Party movement enacted term limits on them through the ballot box on November 2nd .
Sadly, this episode is just another sorry chapter in the irrelevance of the black political class, which has sold its independence to the Democratic Party and its liberal base for - what?
Look at any major urban area, or even a predominantly black suburban area like Prince George's County, and the question that comes to mind is, "How's that working for you?"
Delegate Anderson claims that when he took the pulse of his community, he found they opposed higher taxes, and since he knew low taxes and less government spending are among the policy objectives of the Tea Party movement, he initially saw no conflict in joining.
Imagine that - blacks love liberty, too.
It's a shame he lacked the intestinal fortitude to take a stand, because the debate would have been healthy. It's reprehensible that he chose to revert to the false and insulting liberal talking points about the Tea Party as he retreated.
The promotional campaign for the United Negro College Fund uses the slogan, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste." It's a tragedy that we're not encouraged to exercise our minds, and must instead accept liberal orthodoxy without question or be shamed or shunned.
Just as our freedom from slavery and discrimination removed the physical and legal shackles that bound us, freedom of conscience removes the velvet shackles of groupthink from our minds. How's that song go - "free your mind; the rest will follow"?
By the way, that whole freedom of conscience thing in St. Mary's City? After the Catholics gave haven to the Puritans, who were being persecuted in Europe, the Puritans proceeded to take power and chase the Catholics away. So much for "religious toleration."
We've had the same political party in power in Maryland since the pre-Civil War days.
When Mike Miller first went to the General Assembly, the number one song in America was "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night. When he became president of the Senate, the number one song was "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles.
He's still there.
No independent thinkers, please - we're Marylanders.
Ron Miller is a conservative writer and commentator, author of the book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Toms Porch, and the president of Regular Folks United, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty, free markets and our nation's founding principles. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for several online sites and print publications, and his own website, TeamRonMiller.com. Join him on Facebook and Twitter.