A local lawmaker was among the speakers at a rally on the Capitol steps in Boise on Friday, where he decried what he sees as the erosion of freedom and urged people to resist.
The rally, which commemorated Patriots’ Day, the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, was hosted by the Real III Percent of Idaho, a right-wing group that emphasizes gun rights and what it views as threats to the Constitution.
“Is it that time when our Bill of Rights are defiled every day, when tyrants inside these walls trample our God-given rights?” Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, asked the crowd. “Is it that time when state and federal agencies run amok and intertwine with our daily lives? Is it that time when the Federal Reserve keeps our free nation enslaved by debt? When the people of the world trample under the thumb of corporate imperialism? And now our state and nation is drifting dangerously from freedom to fascism.”
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who was acting governor for part of Friday since Gov. Brad Little was out-of-state, administered an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution to those present. McGeachin said that she had given the oath to several senators during he term as lieutenant governor but added “today is really special because I’m actually your acting governor.”
“Some of the attendees at the Patriots’ Day celebration wished to recite an oath to express their support for and dedication to the U.S. Constitution,” McGeachin staffer Jordan Watters said in an email. “It was not delivered in a legal context and therefore holds no legal significance.”
Christensen, a U.S. Army veteran who was elected to the District 32B House seat after beating longtime incumbent Tom Loertscher in last year’s Republican primary, told the crowd he “found out the hard way that the greatest enemies of the Constitution are not to be found in the sands of some far-off land, but rather right here at home.”
“Our tragic love affair with the state has led us to put far too much trust in a government we hoped could improve our lives, but has instead come to run our lives for us in a horrific manner,” he continued. “We have become as a people like a frightened, battered, beat-down victim of an abusive relationship. A servile and unquestionably obedient people will always produce tyrants. We must as a nation once again embrace defiance, rebellion and resistance.”
Christensen told the crowd, “It’s time we meet that oppression with resistance. I promise you this, I’ll be the first one to step outside these Capitol walls and stand with you when the time is right.”
Christensen said Monday he is worried about the growth of government and saw plenty of corruption during his years working various government jobs.
“Less government involvement in our lives, to me, is better,” he said. “We rely too much on people with the government to solve a problem, but government can’t solve problems. We just create more problems in my opinion. If people want problem-solving they need to look to higher authority, to God.”
Christensen pointed to a bill that passed the House this year but never got a Senate hearing that would have required schools to notify parents of their right to opt out of vaccinations. He said he isn’t an “anti-vaxxer” but believes in choice.
“It’s just that kind of attitude (where) the government thinks they know better than the average citizen, or knows better than the average parent,” he said. “It’s about freedom of choice. What you put in your own body, or what you want to do with your life, or what you think is best for your family, and the government shouldn’t dictate that.”
Christensen criticized Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Fred Martin, R-Boise, for not hearing the bill. He said he views committee chairmen blocking bills as one of Idaho’s biggest problems. This was part of why Christensen ran — Loertscher, the former House State Affairs Committee chairman, was unpopular with pro-gun groups for not holding hearings on bills they supported.
Christensen sponsored a bill this year to let people with enhanced concealed carry permits carry guns in schools. It got an introductory hearing but didn’t move further after House State Affairs Chairman Steve Harris, R-Meridian, heard opposition from the Senate and some law enforcement groups.
“And that’s a problem, these chairmen get a little resistance and they want to succumb to it,” Christensen said. “Of course they’re going to have resistance if it’s a hot issue. But to me, it’s the minority that’s being really loud, and that’s what he heard.”
Other speakers included Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, and Sarah Clendenon with Health Freedom Idaho. Zito talked about several issues further-right Republicans worked on in the Legislature this year, such as trying to legalize cannabidiol oil and a bill that never got introduced to ban abortion. She also praised McGeachin, who has spoken in support of the III Percenters and the Bundy family’s armed anti-government protests. McGeachin posted a photo on Facebook in February posing with two III Percenters and “sending love” to Todd Engel, an Idahoan who is in prison in connection with the Bundy standoff.
“She’s not afraid to be seen,” Zito said. “She’s not afraid to stand with our patriot groups. We need more people like our lieutenant governor in office.”
Scott Drexler, a Challis man who was arrested for taking part in the Bundys’ 2014 standoff with federal authorities in Nevada, also spoke Friday. Drexler originally was charged with multiple felonies, but the juries acquitted him or deadlocked at his two trials. He ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. Drexler said he used to have “a real dread of where this country was going,” but meeting others who are resisting has given him hope.
“It’s restored my faith that we can restore this republic, that we will get where we need to be, and that the citizens will take back their government,” he said. “We have to walk through a lot of fear in order to get this done, but I know that this country, God set it up to be the last bastion of freedom in the world. And with his help with him behind us, it will remain that.”
Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.