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Letter: Votes have consequences
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Dear Editor,

Last week, following a meeting with the Imam of the Doraville mosque, members of the BOC and CAIR, a Muslim organization which had challenged legality of the moratorium, made a joint statement that the Board would meet on Sept. 13, to vote to lift the moratorium.

Over the weekend a militia group known as Georgia Security Force III%, announced an armed rally on the Square to precede the Board meeting.

Media coverage meant a national platform for mosque opponents.

By mid-afternoon Monday the unfolding drama became too intense for the Board. Citing concerns for public safety and crowd control, Chairman Keith Ellis released an announcement cancelling the Board meeting.

While, there were legitimate public safety concerns over militia members armed with AK47’s facing off on the Covington Square with local clergy and mosque supporters, the decision to avoid the issue by cancelling the Board meeting suggests that Newton County is willing to allow itself to be held captive to the whims of home grown radicals.

Here are three thoughts about what happened:

The first is that Newton County demonstrated to all extreme groups who would take issue with any decision of the Board that a threat of confrontation is sufficient to cause our county government to alter its planned course of action. In a world of instant communications and almost unfettered access to any type of gun, this is a dangerous concession to make. That is the reason many nations have a stated policy not to negotiate with terrorists. Negotiation simply empowers those who would disrupt, and encourages future bad behavior. Anyone who has raised children knows that. This was worse than negotiation. It was total capitulation in the face of a threat.

The second result of the decision Monday is that we proved ourselves to be unreliable partners.

The commissioners will argue that the moratorium will expire by its own terms on Sept. 21, only eight days later than promised, but that misses the point. We made a commitment which we chose to ignore because of fear. In the days ahead this Board will be called upon to make many commitments to new industry, to other governmental bodies and to many others as our opportunities expand. Just how comfortable will they feel about accepting commitments from a Board so willing to fold in the face of a perceived threat.

Finally, this Board accomplished nothing Monday. The militia group has already invited its social media followers to join them at the next Board meeting.

Why then was the moratorium imposed? The Board will answer to give them time to review their ordinances, but the truth is that any changes it made would not impact this mosque.

The biggest take away from what has happened should be the realization that votes have consequences. A vote just to calm the public, knowing it will not affect the outcome, risks unintended consequences. The consequence here was to abandon a commitment to avoid confrontation. Next week the moratorium will expire, having accomplished nothing.
Phil Johnson