In October 2009, I published a column titled, "Can Obama and Congress Order You to Buy Broccoli?"
Now I need to ask a follow-up: Can Obama order grocers to give away bread?
I wrote the broccoli column after Sen. Orrin Hatch raised serious questions in the Senate Finance Committee about the constitutionality of President Obama's proposal to force people to buy health insurance.
"If we have the power simply to order Americans to buy certain products, why did we need a cash-for-clunkers program or the upcoming program providing rebates for purchasing energy appliances?" Hatch said. "We could simply require Americans to buy certain cars, dishwashers or refrigerators."
Inspired by Hatch's argument, I wrote in my column: "This is not a question about nutrition. It is not a question about whether broccoli is good for you or about the relative merits of broccoli versus other foods. It is a question about the constitutional limits on the power of the federal government. It is a question about freedom.
"Can President Obama and Congress enact legislation that orders Americans to buy health insurance?" I asked. "They might as well order Americans to buy broccoli. They have no legitimate authority to do either."
I later interviewed Hatch about the issue. "If that is held constitutional -- for them to be able to tell us we have to purchase health insurance -- then there is literally nothing that the federal government can't force us to do" Hatch said. "Nothing."
Orrin Hatch spoke prophetically. Yet Obama's escalating attacks on American liberty in the post-Obamacare era are nonetheless shocking -- for they reveal a president full of zeal in trampling God-given rights.
Last August, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a proposed regulation that would force virtually all health care plans to cover sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortion.
Because Obamacare mandates that all Americans must purchase health insurance, this regulation would require Catholics -- whose church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are wrong -- to act against the teachings of their faith.
Obama was unambiguously attacking the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
America's Catholic bishops quickly denounced Obama's regulation as "an unprecedented attack on religious liberty." They called on Catholics to speak out against it and urged the administration to rescind it in its entirety.