West’s appearance, billed as “An Evening With (Lt.) Col. Allen West,” was a fundraiser sponsored by the conservative group East Texans for Liberty. Besides paying at least $15 admission to see the former decorated U.S. Army officer and onetime congressman, those attending could participate in a silent auction.
ET4L, headed by President Kathryn Wilson, said proceeds from Friday’s event would be used “for bringing conservative speakers and civic educational programs to East Texas.”
West served one term as a Congressman from Florida before moving to Texas to become president and chief executive officer of a Dallas conservative free-market think tank, the National Center For Policy Analysis. He told the gathering that tyranny is being allowed by government’s furnishing people with free cell phones and food stamps while telling them “you don’t have to work.”
He said those awaiting a government check have “lost out” and quoted the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as saying that “the inherent problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.
“Tyranny doesn’t believe in opportunity. Tyranny believes in dependency,” which is why so many Americans are on food stamps, West asserted. He told the audience this was “your Alamo moment” and that it should dare government to “come take it” (their earnings), or “you’ll be the first generation that does not pass on” liberty.
Saying the United States has an $18 trillion national debt and 93 million unemployed, West asked, “Is that what we want to pass on?”
In addition, government “is persecuting people for their religious beliefs,” the speaker said.
A baker in Oregon and a photographer both were fined and lost their businesses for not wanting to be part of something that violated their beliefs, he said. (West did not mention that those cases involved the businesses’ refusal to perform certain services involving same-sex weddings).
He cited the “First Amendment right of freedom of religion, not freedom from religion,” and said the founding fathers “prayed over this nation.
“There’s a reason why we sing God Bless America, not government bless America,” West said. “If we move away from being this Judeo-Christian nation to a secular state, then these blessings will be lost.”
The former lieutenant colonel also noted that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution, but was in a letter which Thomas Jefferson wrote to a religious convention. The idea was that a head of a religious group should not be a head of state as well, West said.
He additionally pointed out that the only “face” in the U.S. House of Representatives staring at the speaker of the House--and at the president when he addresses Congress--is a likeness of Moses.
West quoted Jefferson as saying there is a “a natural right theory” involving man’s creator. The former congressman said that if Americans cease believing that, and instead believe “that man is the granter of those rights, then man can also be the taker of those rights, which is the difference between liberty and tyranny.”
Discussing liberty in general, West declared “it inspires us to make a stand so you can pass on something to subsequent generations.”
He asserted that Abraham Lincoln had given the best definition of the word in 1864; Lincoln noted that some say liberty allows “each man to do as he pleases,” but others say it allows “for some men to do as they please” with the product of other men’s labor.
West said that “what built America (economically) is the indomitable” spirit of the individual, and that the nation achieves things through small business owners.
West also alluded to the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tes Party groups, saying government should not “unleash its power” against people for petitioning for a redress of grievances.
“The government realized that we could not allow liberty to stand,” so the IRS oppresses people, he charged.
Noting that the Tea in Tea Party stands for “taxed enough already,” West said, “We have onerous taxation with very little appropriate representation.”
He also decried the estate tax, which he called a “death tax.” He said people are taxed when alive and “Dadgum, they get (you) when you’re dead, too.”
Before West’s address, Wilson explained East Texans for Liberty’s history and mission. She said she was invited about a year ago to a meeting of “like-minded conservatives,” who decided to form the organization, which is aimed at establishing conservative solutions in the community, state and nation.
“Government must be limited. We believe government must be fiscally responsible,” said Wilson, who said the group wants to “affect public policy” and get citizens involved in civic affairs.
Among those attending the event were Justices Greg Neeley and Brian Hoyle of the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler, State Republican Executive Committeewoman Sue Evenwel, the Republican Party chairmen for Harrison and Titus counties, the Gregg County Republican Party vice-chairman, a representative of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s office and Upshur County Libertarian Party Chairman Vance Lowry.
Also attending were Upshur County Judge Dean Fowler and Longview Mayor Jay Dean, both of whom had to leave before West spoke, and Upshur County Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka, an ET4L member.
Before West’s address, the Gilmer High School Air Force Junior ROTC’s U.S. Flag and Color Guard presented the flag. The speaker praised the students, noting he was in the Junior Army ROTC in high school in 1976 before retiring from the United States Army in 2004 after being stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.
The Gilmer High School flag and color guard members included its commander, Dakota Hillin, and First Lieutenants Allysia Mitchell, Brandon Hollis and Fernando Carrion. They were supervised by instructor Rob Gannon.
ET4L Program Director Stacy McMahan introduced the master of ceremonies, former Upshur County Pct. 2 Commissioner Cole Hefner, who drew applause when he announced that the Texas House of Representatives had voted 96-35 that day to approve the licensed open carry of firearms.
Former Gregg County Republican Party Chairman Keith Rothra introduced West, terming the speaker “so conservative the Democrats hate him, and for that reason, I love him.”
Rothra also noted that Atlanta, Ga. native West (who was defeated for re-election in 2012 after one term in the House) served 22 years in the army and is now a Fox News contributor. West participated in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning a Bronze Star and numerous medals, Rothra noted.
Danny Trimble, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, spoke the invocation at Friday’s event, and Cory Fatherree sang the National Anthem.