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Montana’s governor has the reputation of lowering the flag almost as often as he drops his drawers. But recently, he removed the state flag altogether, and replaced it with a flag that may represent some of us, but certainly not all of us. A flag that stands for a specific social, moral and political movement that many Montanans find abhorrent, and in direct conflict with their fundamental values, religious and political beliefs. For a weekend in June, the standard of the LGBT “gay pride” movement replaced the flag of the sovereign state of Montana.

Bullock’s flag replacement occasioned Helena’s largest-ever gay pride celebration. Do I have a problem with that celebration? Not a bit. Like most liberty-loving Montanans, I honor and defend the right of others to free expression, and to promoting their personal political, cultural and religious convictions — no matter how strongly I may disagree with them. But conversely, I draw a very bright line against compelling other individuals to adopt, support or “celebrate” political values and causes to which they are personally opposed, or that violate their conscience.

Symbolically, this is exactly what Gov. Steve Bullock has done by substituting our state flag with the rainbow flag. The Governor’s Office argued that it was no different than raising an Irish flag on St. Patrick’s Day, but that’s pure sophistry. St. Patrick’s Day is a popular holiday, with no political message or legislative agenda attached to it.

Private organizations and corporations may do whatever they please, and indeed, many engage in various social causes and political advocacies. In their case, the rules of the game are very different. They operate in a competitive marketplace, where their customers can approve or disapprove of their corporate causes and vote their dollars accordingly. But in the public realm, political advocacy is strictly prohibited by law.

In a letter, for example, expressing my disappointment with the LA Dodgers’ recent celebration of “LGBT Night,” I wrote, in part:

“Let’s be honest enough to recognize the strong political and religious undertones of the LGBT Movement… To me, it’s also bizarre that the Dodgers would devote a special night to celebrating people’s private sexual habits. I mean, really. I don’t view that as any of my business — especially when settling in with family to simply enjoy a baseball game. Moreover, I do not wish to be politicized at times like that, and neither do most fans, regardless of the issue. How would they feel if instead, the game was dedicated to the Sanctity of Life, and an abortion survivor threw out the first pitch?”

I never questioned the team’s right to do this — only its wisdom. But in doing so, I had touched the ultimate third rail of political correctness, and they refused to even respond. It is that pervasive fear of speaking even one word on the subject that concerns me most.

One purpose of this column is to encourage people to speak up for their values and beliefs, and not allow others to label them bigoted or intolerant for doing so. The self-certified arbiters of “acceptable public discourse” are all around us, enforcing their political correctness on the college campuses and in the public square. Just don’t listen to them.

The politically related issues and agendas of the LGBT movement are as fair game as any other. If respectful discourse, disagreement and debate are to return to this country, then those who cry foul and accuse others of intolerance the most, need to learn to live with the diversity they claim to love. Freedom, after all, is the one thing you cannot possess for yourself unless you are willing to give it away.

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Roger Koopman is a Republican member of the Montana Public Service Commission representing southwest Montana's District 3. 

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