05/26/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Threats of Violence Against Public Officials Cannot Be Tolerated

When leaders at the highest levels challenge the patriotism and birthplace of President Obama, it dishonors the presidency and sows the seeds of fear, hatred and potential violence in our nation.

When George Wallace blocked school doors and southern governors convinced some segments of our community that America's honor was at stake, some fought back with terror, bombed churches, and killed freedom marchers. Oftentimes they wrapped their justification in Biblical philosophy.

These days will live in infamy, as the scenes of our elected representatives shouting, "you lie" and "baby killer" echo inside the halls of Congress. We've stooped too low when protesters begin hurling the "n" word at African American congressman, and start making direct and indirect threats at representatives who supported the historic health care legislation.

These and other radical statements from members of Congress, conservative talk show hosts and "protestors" are drawing ideological lines -- states' rights versus federalism, harkening back to the cultural lines drawn over the civil war and modern civil rights movement. They revive our worse fears and divisions.

The irony is that those inciting the fear and leading the charge, themselves have comprehensive health care, paid for by the people. Yet, they seek to deny this same health care insurance for nearly 50 million Americans without any coverage at all. Many of the opponents of health care legislation come from states that have the most uninsured people and whose people are most at risk.

And many protesters who are now engaged in this angry and fear-inspired opposition will be first in line to receive the new health care benefits.

Congressional leaders and objective news sources must be immediately and unequivocally denounce the escalation of threats and the inciting of violence against public officials and their offices. Acts of violence are inexcusable and are federal crimes, and cannot be tolerated in a democratic society. We call on the federal, state and local law enforcement officials to take appropriate action.