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Embracing Birch

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | July 29, 2021 1:09 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — Kootenai County Republican Central Committee members unanimously approved a resolution supporting the John Birch Society and will send it forward for possible statewide GOP adoption.

Presented by Idaho Republican Party Region 1 Chairman Bjorn Handeen on Tuesday night, the resolution refers to comments made about the JBS by Kootenai County Commissioner Bill Brooks in a July 10 Coeur d'Alene Press article.

"I studied his accusations about (the JBS), and I found those to be made up," Handeen said. "It looks to me like a great organization, and they are doing good work right here in Kootenai County. So why not show our appreciation and affirm that they are a good organization, and we need to be working more with them, not less."

The resolution affirms the value of JBS's efforts to restore "the Republic according to the vision of the Founding Fathers." The document also states that KCRCC "urges Idahoans who do not support our party platform to follow the example of Bill Brooks and voluntarily disaffiliate from the Idaho Republican Party."

Brooks, who received several calls from individuals asking if he had seen what they nicknamed "the Brooks resolution," on Wednesday called it the symbol of the KCRCC's "extreme right-wing, radical push."

"This is incredible. It says in the resolution that if you disagree with embracing the John Birch Society, they invite you to leave the party," Brooks said. "I think we should ask every one of our elected Republicans, given that statement, if they are going to be Republicans that support the JBS or dissociate themselves with the radical, right-wing group."

KCRCC Chairman Brent Regan spoke in support of the resolution, saying that the committee grew to its present form in part due to the actions of JBS members a decade ago. Regan also said he "wholeheartedly" endorsed the resolution.

"They wrestled control of the central committee away from the RINO class that was marching along in the darkness," Regan said. "The John Birch Society is the intellectual component of conservatism. I fully support them. They are the brain trust. That's why the left hates them. They are the intellectual brain trust of conservatism."

But Brooks isn't buying it. He doesn't think the majority of Idaho Republicans will support the document, either.

"I think the normal Republicans are going to turn around and not agree with the people who are supposed to be supporting them, supporting the John Birch Society," he said. "It is amazing what Brent Regan has done with his temper tantrum attack on me. I predicted this man would be, I don't want to say the death of, but will be the diminishing factor for the Kootenai County Republican Party."

John Malloy, leader of the Coeur d'Alene chapter of the John Birch Society, described the JBS as a "nonpartisan, educational organization focused on the U.S. Constitution, the enumerated powers granted by it to the federal government, and the need for eternal vigilance in trying to prevent (and reverse) expansion of government beyond those enumerated powers.

"Love for, and defense of, the Constitution should be in the hearts and minds of every American, regardless of party," Malloy said in a written statement to The Press on Wednesday. "Many elected officials take an oath to defend it."

Caleb Collier, the Northwest Regional Coordinator for the JBS, attended the KCRCC meeting Tuesday night. The resolution was a happy surprise for the JBS, Collier said in a phone interview Wednesday, as they are frequently accused of being a "racist, far-right, anti-Semitic organization."

Collier said those accusations stem from an article published by a communist newspaper in San Francisco and picked up nationally by media groups during the 1960s. He said the claims were declared to have no merit by a California State Senate Fact-Finding Committee in 1963.

"Still, most people Google John Birch Society and think those accusations are the gospel truth," Collier said. "You would be hard-pressed to find an organization more maligned than the John Birch Society."

Today, Collier said, the John Birch Society's agenda advocates against mandatory vaccinations, constitutional conversions and President Joe Biden's 'Build Back Better' initiative. Supporting local police, leaving the United Nations and opposing communist principles have been part of JBS's initiatives since its creation in 1958 during the Cold War.

Collier said that to his knowledge, the John Birch Society has never received the support of an entire central committee before.

"We are thrilled to see it go before the entire state and hopefully see the resolution passed for the entire state of Idaho," Collier said.

The Benewah County Republican Central Committee also approved a version of the resolution, Handeen said. The resolution has been submitted to the Idaho Republican State Central Committee for possible adoption in its party platform.

Mike Satren, a KCRCC precinct committeeman, said the resolution was "about time." Touching on the perception that JBS is a "far-right" organization, Satren said the JBS has never presented itself as such. In Satren's words, the JBS defines "far-right" groups as those who want no government and "far-left" as those who promote totalitarian, communist, socialist, or fascist systems.

"I'm a member of, and I subscribe to the way the John Birch Society defines (the far right), and they themselves have been called far-right their whole existence," Satren said. "The thing is they stand pretty much exactly right where the Constitution Bill of Rights are, and that's what I'm affirmative of."

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Handeen