- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2021

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Thursday called it “political and punitive” that a federal judge upheld the Biden administration’s ban on a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day.

Ms. Noem, a Republican, said putting the kibosh on the fireworks was the latest front in a political battle over the character of America.

“This is part of the radical left’s agenda. They don’t want to celebrate America or our freedoms,” she said on Fox News. “They are pushing critical race theory. They are pushing The 1619 Project. And this is just another one of those battles to erase our true, honest and patriotic [expression] in this country.”

She vowed to keep fighting.

“This is political. It is all political and punitive, and it is ridiculous. And the fact that we have a judge that stood beside this political, arbitrary decision that came out of the Biden White House is unfortunate, but we do not quit. We keep fighting. And this country is worth it,” Ms. Noem said.

U.S. District Chief Judge Roberto Lange, who was appointed by President Obama, ruled Wednesday against the state’s challenge of the National Park Service decision to forbid the fireworks show. The judge said reversing the decision would be “improper judicial activism for this Court to disregard settled law” on how federal agencies operate.

South Dakota held a fireworks display last year with approval from the Trump administration, including a speech at the event by President Trump. Despite outcry from Democrats that it would be a COVID-19 super-spreader event and fire risk, the Fourth of July display went off without either of those bad outcomes.

Ms. Noem said her state had taken all the necessary precautions to present another safe Independence Day spectacular.

“To shut it down at this point saying there could be COVID concerns, fire concerns, environmental concerns, is just not honest because we’ve gone through and checked all those boxes, submitted to all their permitting requirements, done the environmental studies. We’ve addressed all their concerns,” the governor said.

Judge Lange wrote in his 36-page decision that he liked the idea of having a fireworks display to celebrate Independence Day, but couldn’t allow it to happen.

“This country could use a good celebration of its foundational principles of democracy, liberty, and equal protection of law, after a pandemic that has disrupted society and business and has killed nearly 600,000 United States citizens to date, after an insurrection and physical incursion of the United States Capitol while Congress was convening to certify the outcome of the presidential election, and after this nation has become so sadly divided by the politicization of so many issues, likely to include even the outcome of this case,” the judge wrote.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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