Oregon legislators, when they’re considering a bill, have an obligation to listen to supporters and opponents.
But there are limits to this obligation.
And one of those limits was reached Wednesday when the House Education Committee had a hearing on Senate Bill 664, which would require Oregon schools to teach students about the Holocaust.
The hearing was basically a formality for the bill, which easily passed the Senate in March and is all but certain to become law. The House Education Committee voted 9-0 to forward the bill for a vote in the full House.
After hearing from supporters, including a couple who both survived the Holocaust as children, the Committee opened testimony to a few people who opposed the bill.
Their opposition wasn’t the problem.
It was their specious attempt to deny the fundamental truth of one of history’s most infamous, and thoroughly documented, genocides.
The Oregonian reported that Rep. Margaret Doherty, a Democrat from Tigard who chairs the Education Committee, refused to allow Thomas Madison of Salem to read the written comments he submitted. Doherty told Madison to “very, very briefly summarize what your testimony is.”
Madison complained that he should be allowed to counter “the exaggerations” of the bill’s supporters.
“This is public testimony, a place where people come to discuss issues left and right,” Madison said. “And you have stopped me from doing so.”
Doherty responded: “Yes, I have.”
And she was right to do so.
In his written comments Madison claims that a relatively small number of Jews died in Nazi concentration camps, and mostly from disease and starvation.
This, of course, is patently false.
Another opponent, Mark DeCoursey of Salem, accused legislators of “cherry-picking the lessons from the past to satisfy one political group or one small religious group.”
This sort of worthless drivel does nothing but degrade the legislative process.
DeCoursey, with his “cherry-picking” nonsense, seems to be implying that there are multiple episodes comparable to the Holocaust in modern history, and that Oregon lawmakers, for political reasons, chose it alone. This claim is as demonstrably wrong as Madison’s contention that the scale of the Nazis’ murderous deeds is “exaggerated.”
Lawmakers should listen to testimony from citizens who might object to the bill for any number of legitimate reasons based on priorities of Oregon’s public schools.
But they needn’t give time to people who spread blatant lies.
— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor