It’s wrong to allow government employees to support BLM while on the job

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I have always believed that bureaucrats working on behalf of the American people should be visibly politically neutral. We should know what their political ideologies are, or what political parties they belong to, or the causes they support. It has never escaped me that this could become problematic. Those who don’t share certain beliefs that bureaucrats are publicly displaying — even though they’re tasked with working on behalf of the American taxpayers — could lose trust in them.

This is not a partisan issue but one of public trust and the importance of neutrality among civil servants. The Hatch Act of 1939, along with several other statutes, grants power to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) with the aim of accomplishing this task. Yet it has failed to do just that. This isn’t the first instance in which the agency has come up short — a recent ruling from the OSC is another step in the wrong direction.

The agency determined that federal workers can show support for Black Lives Matter (BLM) and even went as far as to say that it’s OK for them to raise money for the group, as long as they don’t back specific political candidates. The ruling didn’t stop there. The OSC said it’s OK for employees to “wear BLM pins, post supportive messages to their social media account during work time, or let fellow employees or members of the public know of their support.”

This is not the first time the agency came to such a conclusion. In fact, the OSC reached the same conclusion regarding the Tea Party movement, stating it was a social movement and not a political one, the same designation it gave to BLM. However, is it fair to not categorize BLM, or the Tea Party, for that matter, as a social movement? After all, isn’t their goal to impact the political climate by supporting causes and individuals who could become candidates, people who share their visions and political aspirations? The Tea Party had political objectives, and so does BLM.

I recognize the OSC has been consistent in its rulings. Yet from my perspective, no form of participation in politics or social movements with political leaning should be permitted during work. If government employees want to support such groups in their personal time, that’s their business. But it should not be tolerated during official government time, when taxpayer dollars are paying their salaries. What about the Americans who don’t agree with or support BLM? Should their tax dollars go toward online posts supporting BLM or encouraging others to give to the organization?   

The Office of Special Counsel said that “both BLM and the Tea Party are blanket terms for a movement for social change and both span many groups” — which is partially true, but that does not negate the fact that the aim is a political one in both instances. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to worry that those entrusted with day-to-day handling of government business may hold views that impact their work and how they do their jobs. Just imagine working for the federal government and raising funds via social media posts, when you should be working on behalf of the American taxpayers. 

It’s absolutely shocking that our government would empower these organizations without the news media seeking any accountability or challenging them. For the most part, the actions of BLM remain under the radar. 

We need to have complete confidence in our government, and part of ensuring that confidence is knowing that government bureaucrats remain above the fray as neutral political creatures during their workIng hours. It’s important to know that, regardless of the political climate in America’s streets, government employees won’t take sides or use the influence their positions hold in ways that may impact their work. Why empower federal employees to “go rogue” politically?

Support for BLM, the Tea Party, and any other movement should be a private matter that occurs only in private time. In a country as politically diverse and charged as the United States, we must preserve the integrity of our institutions and the crucial role they play in supporting and working on behalf of all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. This task is impossible if we permit forms of activism on the job. It sets the wrong example and creates a culture that we never should want at any government agency.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”

Tags Black Lives Matter BLM Hatch Act Office of Special Counsel Tea Party movement

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