Del. Ken Plum: Challenges To An American Ideal

by Bridget Reed Morawski May 2, 2018 at 12:30 pm 25 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

“The current landscape of the nation has been darkened by storm clouds of hate speech, white nationalist ideology, bias-motivated violence, and rising intolerance,” according to a report of the Inclusive America Project entitled Pluralism in Peril: Challenges to an American Ideal (Aspen Institute, 2018) sponsored by the Aspen Institute Justice and Society Program.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meryl Justin Chertoff, Executive Director of The Aspen Institute Justice and Society Program, and to participate in a roundtable discussion of this issue at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling. The interview can be found here.

Pluralism refers to the right of all Americans to practice their faith in freedom and security. As indicated from the quote of the Aspen Report in the opening sentence of this column, there are attacks on religious freedom from many directions and in many forms in recent years. Some even question the meaning of religious freedom in our country suggesting that they should have freedom of their religion–most often Christian religion–and not all those other practices that other people want to call religion. After all, the most extreme argue that this country was founded on a belief in God, meaning of course god as they define him or her in their religious beliefs.

A basic problem in defending American pluralism seems to me to be the ignorance on the part of some of basic constitutional protections and how they were secured. Virginia was settled as a land venture by investors who were looking for a way to make money in a colonial empire. First settlers were part of the state church of England as Anglicans or they had no religion at all. As more settlers arrived the minority religions such as Baptists started to arrive, and they objected to having part of their tax money go to the church. Religious conflict occurred as more settlers recognized an opportunity to free themselves from a state-imposed religion.

Soon after Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, he wrote what became known as the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, the most important piece of legislation ever passed in the Virginia legislature and I believe in any legislative body. Just as the Declaration had declared political and economic freedom from the mother country, the Statute of Religious Freedom in one sentence of more than 700 words declared in part that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

The challenges to our pluralism must be countered by our unwavering support of our own beliefs as well as the right of others to their own religious beliefs. As the report on pluralism found, “this work requires decency, sympathy, appreciative curiosity about difference, and concern for our shared beliefs.”

File photo

  • The Constitutionalist

    Hello everyone, my name is Ken Plum, and today I’ll be giving you a lesson on irony.

    • The Wife

      Its clear that the Chertoffs are insiders, they’re singing a nice song but then they do exactly the opposite. Oh hold on, we live in DC and so we’re outside of the law.


  • OneReally

    Interesting! I think we have something already, checking…….

    There it is:

    Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion,
    impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech,
    infringing on the freedom of the press,
    interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning
    for a governmental redress of grievances.”

    It was the First Amendment. I think it was over looked.

    • The Constitutionalist

      The first is second to go.

      • Willie Reston

        Perhaps it’ll be first to go. After all, it is the sitting President who called the news media “the enemy of the American people”. And a majority of his followers agree with him! This is the company you keep, so-called “Constitutionalist”.

        • The Constitutionalist

          It’s really hard for you to get people’s names correctly, isn’t it?

          It’s also not just the President’s supporters who have lost faith in the media’s ability to portray real facts, but just about everyone who claims to have more than a semi-grasp on reality. The thin line between opinion and journalism no longer exists.

          However, the first amendment is hardly at risk from the right as most Trump supporters live by the motto, “I don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.” You never see an organized group of right-wingers protesting and rioting in the streets because they’re scared of someone’s words.

          The real threat to the First comes from the left labeling everything they disagree with as hate speech, racism, and/or bigotry along with their inherent desire to police the thoughts of others instead of allowing the free market of ideas to run its course.

          I know you’re probably foaming at the mouth because I said free market, but the truth is that you and “the company you keep” are scared that the ideas you don’t like are too dangerous because you can’t counter them with your own.

          That’s why there are no videos online of liberals winning a debate in the ring of wits. Easier to prevent a debate by force than to be challenged in front of followers.

          • Willie Reston

            LOL, you really want to talk about what right-wingers take to the streets to fight for? REALLY? See: Charlottesville.

            Nice ill-conceived jab with the free market joke there. Tell me, who is it that’s ordering government-imposed tariffs on your sacred free market and effing everything up? You know, they say timing is everything in comedy.

            No videos online of liberals winning a debate? Are you daft? Trump lost every debate to Hillary in 2016 and it’s not even debatable from an objective standpoint. No, I don’t like Hillary and yes, I understand Trump won the war not the battles (saved only by the electoral college, of course).

          • The Constitutionalist

            Yep, the only aggressors in Charlottesville were the right-wingers, pay no mind the endless video evidence to the contrary, only that of which my chosen reporter tells me do I consider fact. As usual, you’ll take a single time in history and make it a trend when such isn’t the case.

            Great pivot. I didn’t say I supported Trump’s tariffs, that wasn’t part of the discussion. The discussion was that of words and the freedom of speech, and it just so happens to be that free and market, words when used together, make you angry.

            The only metric that suggests Trump lost the debates to Hillary are the biased news sources we’ve since discussed are not trustworthy. By viewer and audience reaction, a winner was clear, and it wasn’t Hillary. If only Putin had used some of his collusion obtained resources to have his bots hit the Trump button more on the websites with the debate polls.

            I know you don’t like Hillary, she’s not radical enough for you. You’re more of a Maoist, but unfortunately, your party wasn’t quite ready for that yet, give it a few more years.

          • Willie Reston

            You are the one who first alluded to the economic free market, not me. Stop trying to use the pathetic Republican tactic of attempting to gaslight the able-minded.

          • The Constitutionalist

            Able-minded? You? A comedian if I’m generous, able-minded, hardly.

          • Willie Reston

            Coming from the guy who, in a different thread, clearly didn’t know what “synonymous” means. Hilarious. When did we learn about synonyms? Maybe fifth grade?

          • The Constitutionalist

            You do realize that low silver line Metro ridership is suggestive of the fact that the majority of Restonians don’t like taking the silver line.

            That means it’s synonymous. In fact, that’s the literal definition of synonymous.

            When did you learn about literary tense? You can’t have didn’t, which is past tense, and means, which is present tense in the same sentence.

            Why do you make me do this to you in front of your peers?

          • Willie Reston

            I love how you think there’s some sort of audience paying attention to our dispute. Self-aggrandizement, much? I guess that’s what happens when you don’t get out of your mom’s basement very often; you mistake imaginary internet points for some sort of social validation.

            Your exact words were, “You mean, RN made a comment that is completely synonymous with the majority of Restonians?”

            That sentence makes very little sense. A majority of townspeople here are “synonymous” with a comment about low Metro ridership? I can kind of see what you were going for but, again, you mangled the usage of a fairly simple word and clearly don’t understand how to use it. When people think of Reston they don’t think, “they have low Metro ridership!” That’s the standard that would be required for the two to be considered synonymous BY DEFINITION (to echo your own words).

            I recommend you look these things up before pretending to know what you’re talking about. But knowing you, you’ll probably brush the Merriam-Webster off as a “fake dictionary”.

          • The Constitutionalist

            Willie, when people are up and down-voting comments, that means there’s an audience.

            The mom’s basement comment? Really? That’s where you go when you’re beaten?

            When Metro and Reston comes up, you don’t look at the comments on that article, or the majority of articles written about the subject and you don’t think “they have low Metro ridership?”



          • OneReally

            “Trump lost every debate to Hillary in 2016”

            Who won the election again?

          • Willie Reston

            Keep reading, sparky.

          • OneReally

            “saved by the electoral college, of course”

            You understand it’s not a backup system, right? I’ll wait here for your half bake response.

          • drb

            Remember Charlottesvile was not between the right and left. It was between the old left and the new left. Because one is to the right of the other does not make them the right. Both with wish to impose their beliefs on all. The right wants freedom to choose ones own path.

        • OneReally

          Today’s “news media” is hardly new on both sides.

          More like opinion host.

  • Wolf

    The only hate speech I’ve heard recently was coming from behind the podium at the White House Correspondence Dinner.

  • BoyScoutsofAmerica

    Hey, we are letting girls be in the Boy Scouts now AND changing the name, so, that should solve everything.

  • 30yearsinreston

    More babble as Ken advances his identity politics expertise

  • Reston Realist


    You are such a populist…. why haven’t you run for governor?

    • 30yearsinreston

      He would have to give up his guaranteed sinecure

  • RoadApples

    Curious Questions:
    re: The Aspen Institute Justice and Society Program:
    1. Who is funding this J&S Program. Follow the money?
    2. Is Aspen in Virginny?


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