OPINION – Not so long ago, it was common to think of our rights in terms of individual human rights. With the spread of identity politics and political correctness, we are reaching a point where we’re allowed to only consider group rights.
Collective rights artificially divide us into squabbling tribes pitted against one another in a desperate quest for power to impose themselves on each other.
Naturally, this division leads to increasing collisions between individual rights such as freedom of conscience and the imperatives reflecting the consensus of the collective.
Take, for instance, the recent news accounts of the former Salt Lake City police motorcycle officer who was removed from duty following accusation of being “intolerant” or “biased” toward homosexuals.
What was this officer’s alleged offense? Did he publicly or privately utter slurs or use hateful speech? Did he refuse to assist members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender community when they needed his police protection? Nope.
The officer drew the wrath of his administration by quietly asserting his conscience.
I had the chance to hear this officer’s story directly from the source last week when Eric Moutsos was a guest on my radio show.
Last summer, Moutsos and other members of his police motorcycle squad were assigned to perform choreographed maneuvers in the annual Pride Festival parade through downtown Salt Lake.
Concerned that being an actual part of the spectacle could be construed as approval, Moutsos requested that his assignment be switched to crowd or traffic control. Switching assignments had previously been allowed for other events but this time his superiors came back with an emphatic denial of his request.
Alarmed at their demeanor, Moutsos emailed his supervisor and told him to disregard his earlier request and that he would be ready for practice and to ride in the parade.
But two days later, Moutsos was called into a meeting with his superiors and relieved of his gun and his badge. He was placed on administrative leave “for discrimination” and labeled as a bigot.
His department issued a misleading news release saying that an unnamed officer had been put on leave for refusing a gay pride parade assignment. The problem is, Moutsos had never refused the assignment; he had only asked to be reassigned to other parade duty.
Recognizing that knives were being sharpened, Moutsos voluntarily resigned from the Salt Lake Police Department before they could fabricate an official rationale to terminate him.
Eric Moutsos policed his community with distinction and professionalism. He served and protected among the homeless and other societal outcasts in the Pioneer Park area of Salt Lake.
He provided police security when same sex couples were descending on the Salt Lake City-County building to get marriage licenses. One Salt Lake paper lauded his fairness when responding to a complaint from security guards over a gay couple kissing on Mormon Church property.
In an interview with KSL, Moutsos spoke directly to the LGBT community, telling them:
I probably agree with 95 percent of your life or more. And I wish we could find the things that we do agree with and build from there. But there are just certain messages that I will never advocate.
Gay pride parades, by their very nature, are at least as much about flouting the standards of traditional morality as they are about showing pride. Moutsos’ personal disapproval, in this case, stemmed from an evaluation of practices rather than people.
To claim that he was unwilling to fulfill his professional duties by not performing motorcycle tricks in a parade is a stretch, to say the least. He simply did not wish to appear to be supporting certain messages that were contrary to who he is.
His private request to be given other parade duty has been misrepresented by his former police chief Chris Burbank into justification for a very public flogging for failing to be inclusive enough of a favored group.
For the past 7 months, Moutsos has been a lightning rod for the kind of undiluted vitriol that defines intolerance. It’s supremely ironic that his most vehement critics cannot recognize that they are personifying the offense of which they accuse him.
If we’ve reached the point where an individual’s peaceful disapproval is equated with actual harm and hatred, then we no longer have a clear right to follow our conscience. That is the goal of those who are constantly seeking power to impose themselves on others.
A moment of truth arrives when our personal conscience is at odds with the consensus of the collective. That’s when we must choose where our allegiance truly lies.
It may be a good time to remember the courage of Eric Moutsos.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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