Wherever members of RFJ go they are asked the same question by those that know nothing about RFJ: “Is RFJ just like abate of Colorado?”
As we push forward to fight for the rights of motorcyclists, this is a valid question and one many of you who may have been reading this paper might want an answer to. The old timers who have been with RFJ know, but new members or potential new members may be curious.
So, what is the difference between abate and RFJ? I have only been associated with RFJ for the last 8 years, but I think I can sum it up. Riders For Justice is a NO COMPROMISE group. We are not going to lay down and accept a helmet law or any other law which is bad for motorcyclists! We don't take money from the government. We don't get in bed with anyone. We have always had a reputation for saying what we think and sticking with it. We don't make exceptions for anyone! What about abate of Colorado? Can they say the same thing? Hardly. In 1986, abate lobbied for an under 18 amendment to a helmet law bill and in 1989 they again lobbied a senator for an under 21 amendment to a pending helmet bill. Now why would anyone want to give ground when we have no helmet law? Why not fight to stay completely free as RFJ has and will do? The only reason I can think of for this is money. Anyone in the motorcycle rights arena knows that membership grows when you have a helmet law and an under-age law would generate money while not forcing adults to wear a helmet. Problem with this is that once you have an under-age helmet law, it can be changed to include everyone real easy. Abate also does not seem to believe that helmets hurt. Their cry is that we should have the right to decide-BUT helmets are good safety equipment. Helmets have broken necks and injured riders. The argument that if one life is saved it is worth passing a helmet law can be used the other way. Are legislators willing to take the chance that one life may be forever destroyed by breaking your neck? Are you willing to support any organization that believes helmets don't have the potential to injure or kill?
What about the new direction of abate - a brotherhood aiming toward education. Abates all over the country are getting into motorcycle rider education in a big way. And what is this all about? Do they truly only want to make sure everyone is educated? I see money everywhere I look when this issue comes up. A MRO should not be involved in a business. It corrupts and removes you from your primary purpose which is to stop bad laws! Abate has tried to take over all rider education in Colorado by forcing all competitors out of the business using the DOT's help. When we asked to get an audit of the rider education business, it seems nobody wanted us to see where the money was coming from or going yet all motorcyclists pay into this program. Is that right? Shouldn't an MRO be absolutely forthright with all information on their operation if they take government money? Of course, I cannot begin to see how you can keep your intended goals when you get in bed with the DOT. Also, how in the hell can you fight a helmet law when you force everyone that takes your safety class to wear a helmet and teach them that helmets save lives? The education market is in bed with the MSF and they are as pro-helmet as you can get. Abate of CO had an income of over $500,000 in 2000, and yet they are a non-profit organization that cannot legally be involved in politics. Where does all this money go? It sure the hell does not fight for biker's rights since they cannot hire a lobbyist and cannot lobby as a group.
RFJ refuses to take any money from any government agency. Our officers don't get paid and don't get money for road trips. Abate pays to send their officers to meetings all over. They sure don't pay out of their own pocket like our officers. Hell, I would like a paid road trip as much as the next guy, but I can't justify it to our members who spent their hard earned money to fight unjust laws. RFJ is not in the “politically correct” market. Abate on the other hand has changed over the years to be very politically correct. If you don't believe me, check out their name before and after! RFJ is not going to get into the education business. We believe that rider education is great. I personally have taken the classes at Front Range and so has my wife. They helped me out and I would recommend them to anyone whether experienced or beginner but we are not going to get involved in this business. Private businesses will do a better job. We want all bikers to ride safe as much as anyone, but our organization is not involved in that business. We ARE involved in fighting for your rights, not making money from educating you on safety equipment use and how to ride.
RFJ will fight any unjust law. We believe that we have the right to keep and bear arms. We believe we should not be forced to wear seat belts or any other “safety” equipment. Abate on the other hand will not stray into these “politically incorrect” areas even though freedom is freedom. RFJ believes we don't need another law, we need less laws. When abate wanted to enact a lemon law against motorcycle dealers, we fought with the dealers against this law because their was no evidence it was needed. The only reason they pushed this was that officers in abate felt they had a “lemon bike”, but the dealers I talked to had a different story of abuse to the bike. You don't pass a law that will cost every biker money because one guy is pissed at the dealer. The courts could have solved this if they had been used.
RFJ is willing to stand up to politicians if they don't do the right thing. Ben Nighthorse Campbell was removed as a member when he was the swing vote on the Brady Crime bill that resulted in banning assault weapons based on cosmetic looks. RFJ is not afraid of hurting someone's feelings when they step on the people's constitutional rights.
The biggest problem with abate is that they are in business to make money and they won't fight against helmet laws using the logic that they can and do hurt people. They don't typically attack the laws in court like HLDL and BOLT have done. You just can't keep your true priorities when all of the above is happening in your organization. Finally, abate won't even acknowledge that RFJ exists and have always taken credit for all the good work RFJ has done. They think that if they ignore us we will just go away (we won't!) and they can do anything they want. Abate does not check with RFJ before sponsoring legislation, like the lemon law, to see if we will support it with them and when we don't, it does nothing but give all bikers a bad name in the legislature since they see nothing but fighting among us. And even after all this, I still heard abate leadership talking at MOTM of trying to push the lemon law again in the future!
If you believe that abate is the reason we have no helmet law, think again. It is directly due to former RFJ president Mike Holt's efforts to stop any and all attempts to pass a helmet law whether for bicyclists or motorcyclists. We don't compromise by supporting under-age or insurance requirements laws! If you agree with our philosophy, you should consider joining with us. Abate will compromise your rights just as they have compromised their original name - A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments! It would be better to do nothing than accept compromise and lose your freedoms.
Bob - North East Colorado