Tea Partiers for Freedom - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Tea Partiers for Freedom

Tea Parties on Monday held “Tax Day” events throughout the country, and demonstrated some continuing strength. On a very overcast, very muggy day in Mobile, AL, more than 60 people showed up. The local Tea Party group, the Common Sense Campaign, was kind enough to invite me to speak. The rest of the column is approximately what I said:

Thank you very much.

I come today not to call anybody names, nor to impugn anybody’s motives. I’m here to talk not about partisanship, but about policy.

I know today is tax day. I know the original Tea Party was largely a protest against taxes. And I agree that Americans are overtaxed.

I think we in Mobile should particularly pay attention to local taxes – and most pressing is to eliminate Mayor Sam Jones’ one-cent boost in the city’s sales tax. It’s horribly economically damaging. A lengthy case can be made against it.

Not only that, but after repealing that one-cent hike, we should work towards cutting at least another half cent more. High sales taxes are driving businesses away from Mobile.

But that’s not why I’m speaking today. What concerns me today is the same concern which was truly at the base of, and at the heart of, the original Boston Tea Party. You see, the original Tea Party was only nominally about taxes. The taxes were just a stand-in for the real issue. At its heart, the original Tea Party was a protest against encroachments against freedom and self-government.

The Tea Party then, and the movement today known as the Tea Party movement, was and is less about taxes than it is about freedom.

And let me tell you this: In these blessed United States, we are less free than we once were. Far less free. In fact, we are far less free now than we were when the Tea Party movement started just four years ago.

When the federal government effectively takes over one-sixth of the nation’s economy, we are less free.

When the feds tell us we must buy a particular service whether we want it or not, we are far less free.

When the feds destroy the ownership rights of secured creditors and, by executive fiat, award that ownership to union bosses, we are seriously less free.

When the feds bail out banks to make them too big to fail, we are less free—because any time institutions get too big and powerful with the tacit power of confiscatory government behind them, we are decidedly less free.

And here’s an important one: When government at any level can seize private property and transfer it to another private entity for private profit, then that misuse of the power of eminent domain makes us outrageously, sickeningly, tyrannically less free.

And when federal agencies are lousy with armed personnel, often enforcing, at the point of a gun, incomprehensible regulations that have no business carrying criminal penalties much less enforcement by armed thugs, then not just our freedom but our safety is at risk.

We are less free when officials from the Department of Health and Human Services carry guns. We are less free when agents from the IRS carry guns. We are less free when Labor Department honchos carry guns. And when Postal Inspection Service dudes carry guns, and when Environmental Protection Agency cowboy wannabes can show up unannounced, sometimes on the basis of horribly bad information, with weapons drawn and in large numbers, all in service of some niggling technical regulations or concern about mis-filed paperwork.

But that’s the sort of thing that happens in the United States all too often these days. I’ve reported on it, written about it, and given speeches about it for several years now. When these things happen, when government thuggery reigns unchecked, then, repeat after me, WE…ARE… LESS… FREE. Yes, WE… ARE… LESS… FREE.

Yet having said all of that, I must now turn to the most significant, the most potentially tyrannical assault on our freedom that we have seen from our own governments in at least 40 years.

I speak about an assault so important if the courts don’t do their duty to save us from it, then the obligation to resist it might be strong enough to necessitate civil disobedience. Such non-violent disobedience should always be only a near-final resort – but this might be the case where it is needed.

I speak of the Obama administration’s deliberate assault, with malice aforethought, on what has justly been called our “First Freedom.” Our first freedom is the freedom to practice our faith without government interference or mandate. And the so-called “HHS mandate” even for people of faith to pay for the sterilization of others or for abortion-inducing drugs for others…  is a deliberate infringement not of some mere political or moral position regarding contraception… but against the very basis of religious liberty itself.

This infringement must be resisted.

Let me explain.

The barons in 1215 forced the King of England to sign the Magna Carta largely to secure religious freedom. Pilgrims came to our shores for the purposes of religious freedom. New colonies, such as in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, were founded expressly for religious freedom.

The man justly labeled the Father of the Constitution, James Madison, made his very first public mark in 1776, in the Virginia Assembly, by successfully moving to strengthen the already sincere clause on religious freedom that George Mason had put into the draft for what became the Virginia Bill of Rights.

And the First Amendment to the Constitution, of course, the very first one, ensures recognition of the pre-existing, God-given right of human beings to freely exercise their consciences in matters of faith.

Yet now we have an administration that would deny that freedom. The media like to portray the battle over the HHS mandate as merely a dispute about contraception. That’s a lie. It’s a fight over religious liberty itself.

When somebody can be co-opted by the state into providing material support for that which directly violates his religious beliefs, religious freedom is made all but null and void.

This isn’t just of importance to Catholics and their charities, or to Baptist hospitals, or to, say, the Salvation Army. This is a matter that directly sets precedent for whether or not the religious freedom of any American will ever again be safe.

Imagine this scenario I wrote about ten months ago:

Imagine if a new, deadly influenza virus broke out and authorities determined that somehow a chemical element in pork helped boost one’s immune response, making the pork consumer less than half as likely to contract the illness. Kosher Jews and Muslims, of course, have firm laws against eating pork. Even in the midst of an epidemic, imagine the outcry if the government told a Muslim-owned, or kosher-Jewish, restaurant that it must provide all diners a free serving of pork during the crisis.

Civil libertarians would be up in arms, especially over the affront to Muslims. They would point out that pork is readily available elsewhere, that Muslims are (supposedly) an embattled minority within the United States, and that forcing somebody to violate an unambiguous tenet of his faith is an abominable abridgement of human rights and of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

So what is the difference here? The HHS mandate is at least as much of an abuse.

Would the government force a Mormon to buy somebody a glass of whiskey? Could the government force Hindus to kill cows?

Of course not. Or at least not in a country that provides any basic protections for freedom.

One way or another, the HHS mandate must not stand.

It must not stand, because liberty must be preserved.

It must not stand, because we are free men and women.

And wherever basic liberty is threatened, free men and women must stand up and beat back that threat.

Let’s use Tax Day not just to battle against taxes, but against encroachments on freedom. Our theme is freedom, and it shall not be denied.

Thank you very much.

Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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