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Where have Montana manners gone?

by Roger Koopman
| May 4, 2023 12:00 AM

During the 2007 legislative session, I sponsored legislation to allow alternate certification of teachers by local school districts on a one-year trial basis. It drew the ire of the teachers’ union, whose members, an angry, rowdy bunch, packed the House gallery on February 10th.

The presiding chairman simply issued them a warning – and then a second warning – that their disruption of House business would not be tolerated. When the teachers continued to misbehave, Chairman Himmelberger stated, “Will the sergeant-at-arms please clear the gallery.”

At that point, everyone in the room knew that the demonstrators had gone much too far. Several Democratic legislators stood up and appealed to the chair for leniency, with assurances that there would be no more disruptions. That was the end of it.

But we live in a very different time today. Compare that event with the 200 supporters of Rep. Zooey Zephyr who, with their prearranged chant, airborne garbage and foul-language, literally shut down the House of Representatives and had to be dragged off by law enforcement. Seven were arrested. They were there for the express purpose of stopping government from functioning. This was not spontaneous. It was premeditated, with the full intention of providing the media with a national martyr for radical transgenderism.

How do we know this? For one thing, because Zephyr stood on the floor, facing the screaming mob, leading them with her waving microphone. To date, not one Democrat has condemned any of this.

All we have heard from that party are the deafening sounds of silence when confronted with the hate speech that Rep. Zephyr directed at people of faith. Consider her words: “I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”

Invocations are a time of solemn spiritual devotion, an appeal from one’s heart for help and guidance from our Sovereign God. Can anyone doubt that Zephyr’s cutting remarks were intended to mock not only the Christians in the room, but people of theistic faith in general, and in so doing, to mock their God? To label Republicans as essentially pious hypocrites?

A slip of the tongue? Hardly. To quote Zephyr, “I pick my words with precision and speak with clarity.” Zephyr knew what she was saying, and she meant every syllable – underscored by her later refusal to recant or apologize. It was those words that the disrupters were proudly standing behind, those words that her silent Democratic colleagues condoned.

Can you imagine the uproar in the media if a conservative lawmaker and her supporters were guilty of anything approaching this? But conservatives, as respecters of individual faith and individual conscience, would never think those thoughts, let alone say those words or create that kind of mayhem.

We do indeed live in a time when widely accepted moral standards are now bifurcated, situationally and politically. A time when a Montana lawmaker can openly ridicule her colleagues’ personal faith when they vote the wrong way, and instigate a riot that shuts down the legislature. We’re being told this is justified solely because Zephyr identifies as transgender, and that customary House discipline is suddenly “anti-trans.”

Whatever happened to playing by the rules, which Zephyr committed to doing when she was sworn into office? Whatever happened to manners – or do manners and common decency only apply to one side of the political spectrum and one realm of religious faith?

(Author’s Note: As a gesture of respect for Rep. Zephyr’s wishes, I use the female gender pronouns throughout this article, even though it is contrary to my personal belief that humans are created male and female by a sovereign God and cannot themselves truly “transition” to the opposite sex or gender. God doesn’t make mistakes.)

Roger Koopman of Bozeman served two terms in the Montana House of Representatives and two terms on the Montana Public Service Commission.