But if I did, I would be calling for the censurement and impeachment of Maryland state House Delegate Emmett Burns. Here’s why.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is a straight man who just happens to support marriage equality. So he offered two tickets the Ravens season opening game to a fundraiser in support of Maryland’s upcoming vote on that very issue.
Mr. Burns, however, didn’t like that. He didn’t like that at all. So Mr. Burns took it upon himself to write a letter in his official capacity, on his office letterhead, telling Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti that he should “inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions.” Mr. Burns, in addition to being a House Delegate, is also founder and pastor of Rising Sun Baptist Church in Maryland and has been a vocal opponent to marriage equality.
As anyone who reads this blog (both of you!) knows, I am a big supporter of anyone’s right to believe whatever they want and to be able shout from the rooftops those beliefs. However, when a government official at any level from dog catcher to POTUS uses that office and its power and influence to deny someone else that right because it conflicts with that government official’s own personally held beliefs, that is unconscionable, and if it isn’t already, should be made against the law. What Mr. Burns was saying was that Mr. Bisciotti should tell his employee not only to shut up, but never say anything that would piss off Mr. Burns ever again.
Fortunately, the story has a “happy” ending. The Ravens entire management staff stood up in defense of their player. Ayanbadejo gave a statement saying that he had every right to speak his mind and show his support of his beliefs and would continue to do so despite anyone’s objections. Over two dozen other NFL players and coaches issued statements supporting the Ravens and Ayanbadejo, the most passionate coming from Chris Kluwe. The response in oppostion was so strong and so furious that Mr. Burns backed down, issued a non-apology, and backed away from the table.
But should it end there? Should Mr. Burns be held accountable for the mis-use of his office? Should he be responsible for the act of trying to intimidate not only the player but the entire Ravens organization with the power of his office? Mr. Burns said many more things than I’ve reported here, and the full text of his letter can be found on record. I say that someone in the Maryland state judicial branch should take a look at this case and it, not as the ranting of a minister from his pulpit, but as the deliberate and calculated misuse of office by an elected official. Some sort of lesson needs to be learned here, not only by Mr. Burns, but by all elected officials throughout the country, and possibly the world. You may think I’m over-reacting, and perhaps I am just a bit. Except that if we don’t stop it at some level where it can be done easily, we won’t be able to stop it at the level where it becomes dangerous.
It’s called censorship. Plain and simple, abuse of power censorship. Once it’s set as a precedent, it will be impossible to stop.