Biedermann begins with a thorny issue

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New legislator should mind constitutional rights and our local economy

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New State Representative Kyle Biedermann is learning the ropes the hard way.

We have the benefit of knowing him personally, as opposed to other critics around the state. 

But we offer him some constructive criticism as he continues his tenure as our legislator: Pay attention to what affects your constituents and taxpayers on a daily basis and don’t play to people’s fears.

This stems from Biedermann’s forum on radical Islamic terrorism, held Jan. 19 at the Capitol in Austin. A survey from Biedermann and his co-sponsors — two Muslims warning about Sharia law — may have been well-meaning, but it came off as demagoguery. 

We pay so much attention to the relatively small threat of terrorism that it detracts from the state’s other missions. The legislature spends more than $800 million a year for extra border security, above what the federal government spends. Statistics have been slow coming on the effort’s effectiveness of catching terrorists. 

There are optics here to learn from and we hope Biedermann does, or his tenure may be short. He let others give the information, to be sure, but his sponsorship sent a message.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded to Biedermann’s forum with a critical full-page ad in the San Antonio Express-News. ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke called the forum “racial profiling,” “fear-mongering” and “grandstanding.” The episode also got attention in many of the state’s daily newspapers and on their editorial pages, and websites for Fox News and The New York Times. 

Biedermann said his forum on radical Islamic terrorism was a fact-finding event. It was held to warn others of the ill intentions of militant who use Islam as their cover.

What gets lost in all this is that 99.9999 percent of Muslims go about their business peacefully each day.

We don’t deny that radical Islamic terror is worth fighting, and the U.S. military is doing so steadily and competently. 

But, with all the issues facing Texas, we wonder why so much time and resources are spent over Sharia law courts being installed when that possibility doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. 

State and federal law supersede any potential “court” that tries to impose its own rules over society. Remember the YFZ Ranch in El Dorado, Texas? “Religious leader” Warren Jeffs tried to make his own laws involving underage girls. He’ll remain in jail until he dies.

Aside from the larger civil rights and constitutional aspects of polling minorities, Biedermann should also remember that Fredericksburg and Gillespie County are open, welcoming places. Our major industry, tourism, brings in people from around the world to take in the same things we residents love about the Hill Country. We didn’t ask for our representative in Austin to change that perception and potentially affect our tourism trade.

This forum, as well as President Donald Trump’s executive order halting immigration from some majority-Muslim countries last weekend, reek of guilt by association. Muslims are our biggest allies in the war on terror, and many risk their lives to help the cause of freedom. 

Biedermann is our representative and we want him to be a successful. We have been glad to see his willingness to learn.

But this type of attention does not help his cause, or the image of Gillespie County and District 73. – Ken Esten Cooke 

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