Regardless of where you stand ideologically, having a political stance doesn't imply that you cannot perform your professional duties with competence. As individuals, we're free to think for ourselves, and government or elected officials don't have a right to interfere with that. After all, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”
Still, a GOP congressman representing a district in New Jersey found it wise to use his influence as an elected official to stifle Saily Avelenda's freedom to stand by her own ideals — or at least try to.
Avelenda, a woman from West Caldwell, New Jersey, worked as a senior vice president and assistant general counsel at a local bank until Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen sent her boss a letter ousting her as a member of NJ 11th for Change, a local progressive activist group. As the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the influential Republican found it adequate to send a handwritten note to one of the bank's board members naming Avelenda for her outside activities along with a fundraising letter, WNYC reports.
The correspondence, which warned supporters of “organized forces — both national and local — who are already hard at work to put a stop to an agenda of limited government, economic growth, stronger national security,” had an observation at the end written in ink that stated that “one of the ringleaders works in your bank.”
Along with the letter and the handwritten note, Frelinghuysen's office also attached a news story that quoted Avelenda while talking about NJ 11th for Change.
After being questioned about her involvement with the organization by her superiors, Avelenda said the letter “[caused] some issues … that were difficult to overcome.” And as a result of the pressure she received due to her political views and involvement, she said she felt pressured to leave.
“I had to write a statement to my CEO, and at my level as an assistant general counsel and a senior vice president, at this employer it was not something that I expected,” Avelenda told reporters. “I thought my Congressman put them in a situation, and put me in a really bad situation as the constituent, and used his name, used his position and used his stationery to try to punish me.”
While Avelenda insists she wasn't fired, she said she did feel that her personal involvement with politics made it difficult for her to work comfortably in the bank, prompting her to resign.
Frelinghuysen has been getting a lot of criticism from his constituents for not having held a town hall in years.
NJ 11th for Change started as a social media group shortly after President Donald Trump was elected, and quickly grew into an organization with 7,000 members. People involved with the activist organization live in Frelinghuysen's district, which is moderately Republican.
The group has been a thorn in Frelinghuysen's side by holding weekly protests at his offices. But according to the congressman, the group also jams his phone lines during his two telephone town halls, making it “difficult for us to meet our constituent needs.”
“I’m not suggesting people don’t have a right to speak and let their views be known, but some of this is highly orchestrated and it’s unfortunate,” he concluded.
Regardless of how he feels about this group, the best way to go about broadening the discussion isn't by going after individual members of the activist organization at their workplace. After all, individuals have a right to hold their own political views and become involved with them as they please — so long as they aren't using violence to impose their views.
Having an elected official effectively trying to harass an activist at their workplace is a despicable show of intolerance.
Thumbnail and banner image credit: Wikimedia/United States Congress