I recently had breakfast with a guy with whom I am very like-minded. We talked about our kids, our jobs, and inevitably the conversation gravitated toward our cares and concerns about local issues, societal changes and world events.

He made the point - and I agreed - that too often people who know their rights, and even know the value of their rights, are willing to sacrifice those rights for the simple desire to have a modicum of comfort.

A classic example is the idea that the government can tell you that the business you’ve spent years building has to close down for a while, all for the greater good. Or that your employees should be fired if they don’t believe in a government-mandated action such as a vaccination, to which some just capitulate. Or that your license to earn a living could be revoked if you don’t comply.

But this is America, right?

Yes, but it is also the society that led the way on some of the most draconian challenges to individual liberties that we’ve seen in the modern era. Affronts, if you will, to the natural law that governs basic rights. Why? Because those who have the power to initiate those draconian policies are of the belief that they are enlightened and that they know things you don’t know. The greater good is their aim and therefore you are a harm to others if you cannot willingly give away that which is yours to benefit the collective position.

A point to which many in society chose to acquiesce.

I met with a Pastor recently who heads up one of the largest churches in the nation. As we sat and discussed life, policy and vision he made a statement that I took to heart. He said that in 2020 he willingly complied when the government told him that he had to close the doors of the church. But then he said with a resolute tone, and a look of both regret and resolve: “That will never happen again.”

Why? Because he could now see that the initial foray into protections forced by the government, which were touted as a mere 14-days to flatten the curve, became a non-stop assault on the freedoms of religion, assembly, and speech by a government whose aim was not so much that of protection as it was that of control. They know better, therefore you must comply!

What price do we place on freedom? Have you ever thought about that? When is enough, enough? When have we crossed the red line? Is there a red line? Is there a point that you would be less likely, or better yet unequivocal, in your resistance toward giving up something that is your right in order to gain something that is merely your comfort?

I will never forget a story a friend of mine told me years ago. This friend is still to this day very mission-minded and he has done more work for the Lord than any two men I know. At one point in days past, he did a trip to what was then the Soviet Union. It was during the time of Glasnost, when the Iron Curtain was raising up and outside influences could be felt in places where freedom had only been a figure of speech. But it was still the epicenter of communism and the church was still then a highly persecuted entity. It was not unusual for churches to be raided, parishioners to be jailed, and Bibles to be banned and confiscated. My friend helped a group to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and, while there, he gave copies to some members of an underground church. Those amazing people met in secret, worshipped together quietly, and supported each other in actual fear of the loss of their lives and livelihoods. My friend told me that as he was meeting with one such group that he told a Russian woman: “In America, we are praying for you”.

He was shocked when she looked at him and said “no, we are praying for you in America … because you have it too easy.”

What she was saying was that basic freedoms (in her case the freedom to worship) are too often taken for granted in this great nation we call the United States. So much so that we don’t even notice when they begin to slip away.

What price freedom? What price indeed.

The erosion is sometimes stark. But sometimes the eroding events look like a friendly option.  Case in point, the Alabama legislature recently considered a bill that was brought to the House floor by a good man … a well-respected  Republican who also happens to have retired from a stellar career in law enforcement. This bill seemed on its face to simply say that Alabama doesn’t want riots taking place like we’ve seen in places around the nation for the last two years.

Sounds reasonable, right? Even today in Portland, Oregon, there are still attacks by Antifa. People have moved out of the inner cities in many places not just because they want grass and space for their kids to play but because they can no longer live in a violence-ridden area where law enforcement cannot stop the burning of buildings.

Except that this bill right here in Alabama seeks to rewrite the definition of what constitutes a “riot” by allowing the arrest of individuals who gather in groups of five or more and where there is a presumption in the minds of the authorities of the potential for violence or destruction. Basically, criminality and subsequent mandatory detention can be had for an idea in someone’s mind about what they think is in your mind.

We should never allow such whimsical notions to be the standard for restricting the basic tenets of our constitutional liberties.

None of us want to see Antifa succeed. I think that BLM is an organization filled with race-baiters and charlatans. I don’t believe that the KKK should have a voice in the running of our society.

But neither do I want the thought police to decide for you, or me, or anyone else for that matter, that because of what they think we think, whether we think it or not, that they may preemptively detain an otherwise innocent individual. There must be probable cause. And for that matter, the definition of “riot” already exists under state law.

This is a bill that would cut both ways. As surely as liberals are against this bill, the right side of the political spectrum should have an equal concern. For you conservatives out there, would you want Joe Biden making decisions about what you must be thinking? Would you want Nancy Pelosi’s January 6th Commission to be allowed to detain on mere mind-reading? Not likely.

Freedom is precious. But in the end, freedom can be treated as a commodity like any other thing of value. Freedom can be bartered for something else the same as gold, food, cattle, dry goods. One can put a price on their freedom and agree to exchange those freedoms in whole or in part for that little bit of supposed security … that little bit of comfort … but in the end, those who are willing to trade away their freedoms always find that they were on the lesser end of the transaction and ultimately have buyer’s remorse.

What price would you put on your freedom? I suggest that we should consider it to be priceless … literally price-less.

Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on WVNN. His column appears every Monday in 1819 News. To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement go to www.rightsideradio.org.  The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.