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Our Last Chance to Protect First Freedoms? (It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!)

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Let me commit political heresy in this presidential election year: It’s not the economy, stupid! Our first freedoms—those freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment—are being recklessly discarded by the ruling class in favor of government ideology. It seems that America’s citizenry has become so numb to outrageous political acts that even trampling our constitutional rights barely raises an eyebrow.

If we remember back to when schools actually taught such things, the linchpin of the American Constitution is the Bill of Rights. Those were the rights the founding fathers of this great nation felt were necessary to spell out in the Constitution in order to safeguard us and our democracy from intrusive government. Thomas Jefferson and others would not ratify the document without the 10 Amendments that specified specific rights of citizens in order to limit for all time the power of the central government.

Some, like Alexander Hamilton, worried that actually specifying rights could be dangerous. In Federalist Paper No. 84, Hamilton wrote, “For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?” Today, living in a country without First Amendment rights—freedom of speech, assembly, religion, the press, and the right to petition the government for redress—would seem horrifying.

But that is the dangerous path we are on: Hamilton now seems naïve and Jefferson a visionary.

The executive branch has taken to picking and choosing which laws duly enacted by Congress will be enforced or ignored. Immigration and customs agents are directed not to enforce all immigration laws. The president has “evolved” in his opinion of homosexuality, so the Department of Justice will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton.

When it comes to Planned Parenthood tax funding, we are told it would be better to shut down the government than cut one penny from the federal budget earmarked for Planned Parenthood. All this is done under a legislative maneuver called continuing resolutions since Congress has not actually fulfilled its constitutional duty and passed a budget in three years.

This is the same abortion giant that lobbied for Obamacare to mandate that employers and employees must have health insurance that pays for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. Failure to comply means potentially crippling financial tax penalties—even if your faith or conscience bars you from helping kill preborn babies by helping to fund abortions.

Unknown to most citizens, Obamacare also funnels an estimated $1 billion in insurance premiums each year to an abortion superfund. As the largest provider of abortions in America responsible for over 332,000 babies terminated, Planned Parenthood stands to gain another $250 million.

The unelected Secretary Sebelius of HHS has imposed rules that redefine religious freedom to the point that, as Cardinal Wuerl explained, “HHS’s conception of what constitutes the practice of religion is so narrow that even Mother Teresa would not have qualified.” That’s why over 30 lawsuits have been filed based on religious freedom rights.

But all this was only made possible by our own Supreme Court. While Congress told citizens that this penalty was not a tax, they argued differently in court. Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals ‘shall’ obtain insurance or pay a ‘penalty’—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance.”

Although the word tax never appeared in the individual mandate, the Roberts’ majority substituted the word “tax” for the word “penalty” 18 times and ruled that Congress has the power to tax not just income—but also lawful activities.

How ironic: In 1819, Chief Justice Marshall, reportedly Roberts’ hero, agreed with Daniel Webster in writing for the majority in the landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland: “The power to tax involves the power to destroy.”

History tragically teaches us that if our government can abrogate or penalize one constitutional right, then all constitutional rights are put in jeopardy. So no, it’s not just the economy. We are not stupid.

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