HUDSON: Defending freedoms and our border

Homeland Security logo is seen during a joint news conference in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

“The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.”

This quote by President Thomas Jefferson underscores the importance of freedom of religion to the soul of our nation. The right to practice one’s religion free of government interference is the most fundamental tenant of our democracy. However, this most basic right has been attacked repeatedly over the course of our history, and still today.

Last week, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the case of Joe Kennedy. An eighteen-year Marine veteran, Kennedy was an assistant football coach at Bremerton High School in Washington. After each game, Kennedy would kneel, and offer a brief, quiet, personal prayer. While he did not actively encourage students to join him, many voluntarily decided to participate over time. Eventually, the school district ordered Coach Kennedy to stop praying with students. He then requested an exemption to continue his personal prayer but was denied. Instead, the school district imposed a ban prohibiting Kennedy and any employee from engaging in religious activity either silently or audibly. Coach Kennedy refused to back down, and after kneeling on the 50-yard line for a 15-second prayer, he was placed on administrative leave and barred from coaching.

Seven years since being fired, Coach Kennedy’s case has finally reached the Supreme Court where hopefully he will receive the justice he deserves. I have been a supporter of Kennedy’s fight for many years and have signed two amicus briefs in support of his case. Additionally, I had the privilege of meeting with him personally on the first day of arguments last Monday. I admire people like Coach Kennedy who boldly live out their faith and are not afraid to take a stand. I will continue to stand by Coach Kennedy and work to protect your right to express your faith.

People like Coach Kennedy make me optimistic for our future and inspire me to keep fighting for our values. And like freedom of religion, freedom of speech is another essential right that has fallen under attack.

For too long, big tech platforms have silenced free speech, even that of the President of the United States. I was personally censored for the second time this year when I attempted to share an article from Fox News detailing a Department of Justice filing by John Durham on President Trump’s election. Many pushed disinformation about Trump’s ties to Russia to divide our nation, waste millions of tax dollars, and attack the sitting President of the United States. Big tech was only too happy to promote these lies. Yet social media censored me for trying to share this story.

The internet is the town square of the 21st century and Congress must work to ensure that its rules are consistent and allow for the peaceful freedom of expression – be it a progressive or conservative point of view. I will continue to fight to preserve your right to free speech and to make sure those who infringe upon this right are held accountable. 

This fight for accountability does not stop with our first amendment – rather, it extends to all situations that undermine the freedom and safety of the American people. Last week, Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was on Capitol Hill to discuss the ongoing crisis at our border. Under his watch, we have lost operational control of our southern border, with over 221,000 migrant encounters being recorded in March alone – the highest on record. If the Biden administration’s plans are carried out, the repeal of Title 42 border protections will only make this crisis worse.

The Secretary told Congress the Biden administration has “effectively managed” the border. I completely disagree. That’s why last week, I demanded Sectary Mayorkas enact real changes to secure our border including finishing the border wall, increasing funding to border patrol, and maintaining Title 42 protections. I will not back down because the impacts of the border crisis – and the record amount of deadly fentanyl coming into the country – affect every community in America.

Our government exists to serve the American people and to protect your God-given rights. Whether it’s defending your freedoms or securing our borders, rest assured I will continue to fight every day to make sure it does just that.

Richard Hudson is serving his fifth term representing North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He currently serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and in House leadership as the Republican Conference Secretary.

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