A standing-room-only crowd came to hear former Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin speak Tuesday night.
The Outlaw Inn event, sponsored by the Flathead Liberty Bell group, was the first public speech Baldwin has made since moving to the Flathead Valley from Pensacola, Fla., late last year.
Baldwin, 58, told attendees why he believes Montana is “the tip of the spear” when it comes to fighting for constitutionally protected freedoms.
“The people here have a hunger and thirst for freedom unlike anywhere else in the United States,” he said.
Baldwin spoke and answered questions from the audience for 80 minutes.
“We are on the precipice of history being changed,” he said. “Our days in which we live today are tantamount to the days of 1775 and 1776. These are history-changing days. You don’t have to be a prophet to see the handwriting on the wall. If you’re over 35 or 40 years of age and don’t see that something’s wrong and something’s got to change ... then you shouldn’t be walking around,” he said.
Baldwin referred to the recent shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Ariz., with a veiled reference to the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms” as a means of self-defense:
“I pity the poor fool who would come here in this audience tonight and try that,” he said.
Baldwin pastored a Bapist church in Florida but gave that up along with a radio show to move his family to the Treasure State. “I am absolutely convinced that God is doing something special in Montana,” he said.
“We know there’s a fight coming. We know there’s a line being drawn in the sand. We want to be on good ground. It’s right here in Montana.”
Noting he “escaped” Florida, Baldwin added, “There’s a lot of people who are looking to escape the tyranny and despotism where they are.”
Sounding a theme he repeated throughout his speech, Baldwin said the states have the ability to fight back against federal encroachment and protect their people.
Baldwin lauded Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s signing of an anti-illegal immigration bill last year.
“We need a governor who will do what Jan Brewer did, but take it the next step and say, ‘We don’t care what the Supreme Court of the United States says. We are going to do what we believe is best for the people of Montana.’
“That’s what states have the power to do,” Baldwin said. “They have the power under God, and that’s why I say Montana’s the tip of the spear.”
Baldwin cited Thomas Jefferson and called the United States a confederation of states. He believes the individual governors are more important than the president.
“The genius of the American form of government is the fact that there is a check and balance outside of Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Federalism is a system of government unlike the world has ever known before. ‘Jurisdiction’ makes us unique. We live in the land of dual jurisdiction. The federal government has jurisdiction. So do the states. According to the Declaration of Independence, the states are declared to be free and independent. Every state is a jurisdiction unto itself. It has the right to protect its citizens, even if that means protecting its citizens from Washington, D.C.”
Baldwin criticized fellow Christian pastors in part for the nation’s troubles.
“As a 35-year tenured pastor, I understand the church problem,” he said. “Let’s be honest. If the pastors were proclaiming the principles of freedom to their congregations, we would not be where we are. They’ve allowed the Internal Revenue Service to silence them. They’ve become the ‘sheepy’ slaves of the state.”
“Some of our biggest enemies call themselves Christians,” he said. “And some of our biggest allies do not call themselves Christians and do not go to church. I learned over the past couple years: Do not put people in boxes.”
Baldwin noted he’s starting a new congregation. The first service of Liberty Fellowship will meet at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Red Lion conference room. He emphasized that it’s not a 501(c)3 organization, and donations are not tax-deductible. Thus he has the freedom to speak his mind without fear of financial or political consequences.
Noting he’s been asked, “From whence comes our greatest threat?” — Baldwin quoted Daniel Webster, “There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow.”
Ultimately, he said, “We have more to fear from Washington, D.C., than we do Baghdad or Tehran. This battle is for the survival of the freedoms of our children. If we do not engage the enemy, our children and grandchildren will grow up and curse our memory.
“I believe this is the state — head and shoulders above every other state in the country — where people still yearn to live free. God bless Montana.”
At the beginning of his speech, Baldwin said he came to Montana to visit shortly after the 2008 election. He was driving west of Kalispell and turned onto Lost Prairie Road. “We drove and drove and drove and drove ... and nothing,” he said. It was raining, and a pickup truck pulled up near an intersection of two dirt roads. A man got out and came to Baldwin’s vehicle. After Baldwin introduced himself, the man, Trapper Chowning, recognized him. “You’re Chuck Baldwin! Holy (expletive)!” Baldwin related.
Chowning, who came on stage with Baldwin at that point, later said he told Baldwin he would’ve voted for him, but Chowning no longer votes. (As a matter of record, Baldwin was not on the ballot in Montana because the state Constitution Party submitted Ron Paul’s name instead.)
Baldwin noted that, like Chowning, some have given up and stopped voting.
Several from the audience asked Baldwin if he would run for governor. “I have to give that serious consideration,” he said. “I’m not a wealthy man. I do not have any funds to throw into the fray.
“If God has a future for freedom in this country, God will always have a remnant. I believe God is calling a remnant to come to Montana to fight for freedom,” he said.
Baldwin cited the Biblical reference to Mordecai and Queen Esther, “Who knows whether we are come here for such a time as this?”
Prior to Baldwin’s speech, the Liberty Bell presented awards to Columbia Falls High School student Demari DeReu and her attorney Sean Frampton. Frontier Guns of Evergreen gave DeReu a Savage Arms .308 rifle. DeReu was suspended late last year after she unwittingly left a rifle in the trunk of her car after a hunting trip and took it to school.
“Without the public pressure, Demari would’ve not gotten the right thing done,” Frampton said. Other students had similar incidents happen last year and got stiffer punishment, he said. DeReu ultimately was not expelled from school.
“The school systems in Montana are being dictated to by the National Education Association in Washington, D.C.,” Baldwin said.
He noted that one of his sons works as a plumber in Pensacola. “You can’t even flush your toilet without asking Uncle Sam how much. So many states are going along without resistance, without a second thought.”
Baldwin said he’s seen places in the United States “where people have traded the principles of freedom for socialism ... and even fascism. But what [that trade] takes from you is more than what it gives you,” he said.
Reporter Caleb Soptelean may be reached at 758-4483 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org