March 27, 2014 8:20 am -

The Hobby Lobby/Conestoga cases are getting much deserved attention, but another case before the high court deserves equal time. The issue is whether the Supreme Court will allow the Secret Service to quash dissent. Wood v. Moss is about whether protesters can be treated differently if their views are ones of dissent.

The case involves an incident in 2004 when President George W. Bush ate on the patio of a restaurant in Jacksonville, Oregon. Both pro-Bush and anti-Bush demonstrators gathered on nearby streets. The anti-Bush demonstrators happened to stake out space closer to the president.

The Secret Service ordered the anti-Bush folks to move. They insist it was as a security precaution.

However, the anti-Bush contingent was kept at a farther distance from the president than the pro-Bush group.

Anti-Bush demonstrators claim that the Secret Service’s real goal was not insulating the president from safety, but from indigestion; that the Secret Service feared the content of the speech, rather than any danger posed by the demonstrators themselevs. They filed a lawsuit against the agents involved, alleging that those agents violated protesters’ constitutional rights…

If agents had moved everyone back to the same distance, there would have been no foul. All they needed to say was, “We’re worried about the president’s safety. All demonstrators need to stay at least a block away from the restaurant.” Instead, they gave preferential treatment to one side, to one argument.

Justice Stephen Breyer articulated the tension during Wednesday’s hearing. “I know everyone understands the importance of guarding the president in this country. Everyone understands the danger. You can’t run a risk,” he said. “At the same time, no one wants a Praetorian Guard that is above the law, and we have examples of history of what happens when you do that. So everyone is looking for some kind of line that permits the protection but denies the Praetorian Guard.”

It would be a dangerous precedent if it’s decided that those who disagree with an official must be kept at a greater distance than those who agree for fear that some Dear Leader might be offended.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.