11.25.2015 2

Congress must enforce the First Amendment on IRS targeting



By Dustin Howard

The Left’s fervor and furor against their enemies is pervasive. There exists a multi-front war, in which speech, cultural and social institutions and faith are being reviled, marginalized and even silenced. This serves to polarize our country, and empower an alien ideology that strives for cultural hegemony, as they wield intolerance as a sword, ironically, in the name of tolerance itself.

As we see histrionic Mizzou student protesters creating safe zones that reconstitute segregation, communications professors openly threaten student journalists and watch as state governments persecute long held religious understandings of marriage, we must ask: Who has the moral authority to halt these egregious acts? While the solution is not exclusively a legislative one, one thing is clear: the executive branch of the federal government is complicit in the vicious culture of intolerance.

Look no further than the harassment of tea party groups and other 501(c)(4) organizations by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) leading up to the 2012 Presidential election. Clearly the President and his appointees have forfeited any moral authority they once had, as even if the participants did not act with President Obama’s direct orders, they most certainly were defended for abusing his authority. In a representative government, the leaders are not only to represent the ruling party, but its opposition as well. Without that, there is no rule of law.

The affairs of the states may be out of Congress’ hands, but members who are concerned about the Left’s assault on free speech can at least send the message that we will no longer tolerate such intolerance at the federal level.

The IRS officials responsible for persecuting their political opposition may have successfully evaded criminal prosecution; it is convenient that Obama’s Department of Justice just let the IRS off the hook, finding “no evidence that any official involved in the handling of tax-exempt applications or IRS leadership attempted to obstruct justice.” This emboldens the ideological zealots that sow discord in our local communities, sending the message that the government going after political opponents will not be punished.

A solution that can alter the institutional behavior of those who would weaponize the government is for Congress to use its Article I prerogative to deny funds to those agencies in the executive and explicitly restrict their behavior, and ensure that they cannot repeat abuses of the past.

Congress indeed has the opportunity to strike back at the militant intolerance that is otherwise unanswered by the authority figures that should salving the nation’s wounds, and instead are making more of them.

Stipulating precisely what the IRS can do with its power is the only short term solution in the upcoming omnibus spending bill for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016. Congress must send the message: the First Amendment makes the entire country a free speech zone, and a government that will not follow it must not be tolerated.

Dustin Howard is a contributing editor at the Americans for Limited Government.

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