Adam Graham
June 28, 2008
How will you hang?
By Adam Graham

"We must hang together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately." Benjamin Franklin.

Imagine your city council enacts controversial legislation with no public notice despite city employees telling concerned citizens that before any action was taken, they'd read about it in the paper. Imagine that your city continues to refuse to hold a public hearing despite the uproar and you sue. The judge not only finds against you, but orders you to pay $10,000 in legal fees.

Your city tries to thwart your every effort to get your issue on the ballot, using a long and frivolous legal battle to strain your resources. The State Supreme Court grants you your day at the voting booth. You opt not to ask for attorney's fees from your city, choosing not to burden taxpayers with the costs of the foolish policy of the people they elected.

Due to the national political situation and voter fatigue brought about by the city's delaying tactics, you lose your vote at the polls. You accept defeat even though you don't like it. You move on with your life.

In 2007, in a light turnout election the Mayor is re-elected by a whopping 19.2% of the registered voters in your city.

Now, it's been fifty months since the ruling requiring you to pay, but the city has never made an attempt to collect, perhaps thinking better of a policy that was widely seen as mean-spirited, and reacting to your gracious move not to demand they pay your fees.

You then receive a letter dated four days prior informing you that there's a lien on your house and that that you have less than three weeks to produce more than $10,000 or face a government attempt to seize your property to satisfy your debt. You then find out that your city placed a lien on your house four years previously and by the way, didn't bother to tell you.

Such a nightmare scenario need not be imagined by two conservative activists in the City of Boise.

The City decided to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a Boise City park on the pretext of a threatened lawsuit by fringe hatemonger Fred Phelps. Though there were strong feelings on both sides, and the community wanted to have its say, the city instead tried to avoid controversy by reaching a closed door deal and then putting an item on the agenda that was vague to outsiders. Rather than mentioning a "Ten Commandments Monument" it instead cited it as a "Fraternal Order of Eagles Monument."

Most people didn't know what a Fraternal Order of Eagles Monument was and the motion was slipped through by underhanded politicians, who offered nearly 40 years of Boise history up as a sacrifice to a hateful out of state extremist. Mayors of nearby communities did the right thing and told Phelps in slightly more official terms to go jump in the lake.

Reverend Bryan Fischer, a Parks and Recreation Commissioner filed suit against the city, along with pro-life stalwart Brandi Swindell. The case was thrown out of court and the city asked for court costs from its citizens, and was granted more than $10,000, which they did not attempt to collect for four years.

Fischer, Swindell, and hundreds of grassroots activists stood against the capriciousness of Boise Mayor Dave Bieter for 70 days, until, at the end of the March, the city moved the Monument to a local church. Fischer and Swindell proposed a citizen's initiative to place a new monument in the park. This monument, like the old one, would not be paid for by the city and would also feature Thomas Jefferson's Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. In the heat of July and August, volunteers worked desperately to collect enough signatures. Many wondered if ragtag volunteers could do it, but they did. The city responded by saying they wouldn't allow a public vote on the legally qualified initiative.

This led to a two year court battle, and while Fischer and Swindell prevailed, justice delayed was truly justice denied. When the court's ruling came down, it put a dormant Ten Commandments Issue back in the spotlight in the middle of a hotly contested general election where conservative money and attention was already divided, the conservative turnout was low, and Democratic Congressional Candidate Jim Hansen was running a turnout machine in Boise. Rather than continuing the momentum from the petition drive, the Keep the Commandments Coalition had to start from scratch, with many supporters having left Boise to escape its high taxes. The initiative lost 53-47%.

Life went on for Reverend Fischer and Ms. Swindell until , when they received the first notice they'd ever gotten in regards to the $10,000 in fees from 50 months before. The demand was as arrogant and out of touch as the original actions of the city, which were designed to avoid a lawsuit, but have already landed the city in the midst of at least two.

Who Are These People?

The left has its political activists, people whose only job seems to be to make trouble for taxpayers. Big environmental special interests, big labor, and the ACLU have their claws into every state in the Union. They fund people whose job it is to expand government and take away your freedoms.

They have fewer counterparts on the right for the simple reason that there are no counterweights to teachers' unions that can coerce away the money of unwilling union members, abortionists who have a vested interest in wholesale slaughter, or big liberal foundations that seek to undermine the very system that allowed the prosperity that makes their existence possible.

Bryan Fischer and Brandi Swindell are some of those rare counterweights. They fight for conservative values every day.

Ms. Swindell has spent the prime of her life traveling the country trying to get the post-Roe generation involved in the pro-life issue. While many people her age are living out HBO and MTV shows, she's chosen to be a voice for sexual purity and biblical values in a confused time.

She went to Florida to fight for the life of Terri Schiavo. She has stood for traditional values at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. She fought for conservatives to get a fair shake in the selection of speakers at Boise State University rather than being presented a slate full of nothing but liberal speakers.

In recent months, Swindell has appeared in the newspaper far less, because her work has been so positive. Her long time dream has been to do more than activism: to help women in crisis pregnancy situations, and that's just what she's done through her new organization, Stanton Health Care Services. She's personally gotten involved in the lives of these young women.

Through her involvement in the lives of these women, she became a leader in the fight for Idaho's landmark law against coercing women into getting abortions that was opposed by the state's extreme liberals.

Bryan Fischer is a former pastor and Senate chaplain Idaho families couldn't have a more tireless advocate. After a State Constitutional Amendment banning same sex marriage died in committee in 2004, and failed on the Senate floor in 2005, he led efforts to educate voters about how their Senators had voted leading to a complete reversal of fortune with practically the same Senate in 2006.

Fischer has been out front on nearly every conservative issue you could imagine over the past four years, from discussion of intelligent design and opposing economically harmful legislation on global warming, to decreasing the burden of grocery taxes on Idaho families, to standing for the English language and against illegal immigration, and against Idaho's star chamber selection process for judicial vacancies. There hasn't been an issue of concern to conservatives that he hasn't touched.

Fischer's daily updates provide a clear conservative view of what's going on in the world and in our state, which counterbalances the bias of the Idaho Statesman. On top of this, Fischer produces the Gem State Voter Guide (, which is the best example I've ever seen of a complete conservative voter guide.

The last time Idahoans for Tax Reform prepared their list of the top 50 conservatives in our State, Fischer ranked 24 and Swindell 30. Then-1st District Congressman, now Governor, Butch Otter ranked 36. They set a powerful example for Conservative Christians in our state.

Making An Example

Why is the Bieter Administration going after them? Governor Otter was elected by only nine points in 2006, and the presumptive Democratic frontrunner for Governor in 2010 is the Mayor of Idaho's largest city, Dave Bieter.

What it is apparent, both in how it's trying to collect the judgment and in the request for the judgment in the first place, is that the Bieter Administration has been trying to make examples of political opponents: Oppose Team Dave and they'll roll over you.

I want you to think for a moment about what that means to grassroots activism. The threat of litigation or a threat to their home will scare some people off from the arena or from taking on powerful people. City Hall is trying to strong arm its opponents into silence.

The Conservative Response

The normal Conservative response would be to wish Ms. Swindell and Reverend Fischer well on getting $10,000 together on their modest income, and to hope someone else takes care of this. Many may wonder, if they don't live in Idaho, why they should even care.

There's one very simple reason to care: politicians watch one another. If one politician finds a slick new method of increasing his power, others will duplicate it. Corrupt political bossism is a cancer.

You rarely hear of liberals losing their homes or being forced into crippling debt because of their stances for liberal principles. You do hear of this quite often about conservatives, who find their ideological fellows absent when needed. The conservative movement is full of sunshine soldiers and summer patriots.

In Bryan Fischer and Brandi Swindell, we have two rare individuals who have born the heat of the battle. These people are no summer soldiers, these are no sunshine patriots, and they deserve our support.

At the beginning of America's Revolution, when the usurpation of government on the rights of the people was most evident in Boston, it would have been easy for other colonies to simply say, "Well, that's Boston." However, the cry of the Revolutionary era was, "The cause of Boston is the cause of us all."

I hope across America, people see the danger of what the Bieter Administration is doing, and that its misuse of legal processes against its own citizens will be denounced. "The cause of Boise is the cause of us all."

To help:

  1. Call the City of Boise and politely and respectfully express your concerns. If you live in Boise, it's important to remind the city leaders that if the Mayor wants to bring the city together, he should stop trying to punish his political opponents. You can reach the Mayor's hotline at 208-384-4404.

  2. Insure that this matter does not create hardship for these two great conservatives through your support. Any donation will help. If 1,000 people send $10, this will be nearly enough to resolve the issue. You can send checks or money orders made out to the Keep the Commandments Coalition, PO Box 140031, Boise, Idaho 83714.

  3. Forward this story on to anyone who might be interested. You may freely distribute the entirety of this particular column through any and all means without any written permission, as long as attribution is given.

  4. Pray for Reverend and Mrs. Fischer, as well as Ms. Swindell as they go through this that God's peace and wisdom will be with them and that they will be granted justice.

© Adam Graham


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Adam Graham

Adam Graham was Montana State Coordinator for the Alan Keyes campaign in 2000, and in 2004 was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the Idaho State House... (more)

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