The Sebelius Precedent: Time to Regulate Liberalism? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Sebelius Precedent: Time to Regulate Liberalism?

Let’s call it The Sebelius Precedent.

If we’re now going to breach the Constitutional right to religious liberty — can an assault on political liberty be far behind?

Or, plainly put, is it time to tax and regulate liberalism?

The government, according to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (the headmistress of Obamacare) is going to regulate the Catholic Church.

In the words of CNN, last January:

Catholics around the country got an earful on Sunday from the pulpit over a new health insurance policy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that forces employers to cover contraception and abortion as part of preventative care regardless of religious beliefs. The use of abortion and contraceptives violates Catholic teachings.

Just the other day, after futile attempts to reach agreement between the Catholic Church and the Obama Administration — represented by Headmistress Sebelius — the Church took the President to court. As reported at

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has joined with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C., the University of Notre Dame, and 40 other U.S. Catholic dioceses and organizations in a lawsuit against the Obama administration. Twelve different lawsuits, charging the administration with violation of the Church’s First Amendment right to freedom of religion, are being filed in federal courts around the nation. 

Said the statement on a website set up by the Archdiocese of Washington:

This lawsuit is about an unprecedented attack by the federal government on one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. It is not about whether people have access to certain services; it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs.

Mysteriously, the story of the Church suing the President got scant coverage in the liberal media. As noted here.

One can only assume the lack of coverage by mainstream media is because of plain, old-fashioned media bias.

But maybe there’s something else at work.

That something?

The realization even in the slow-moving left-wing brain that if religious freedom — a guarantee of the First Amendment — is no longer un-regulatable, neither are those other guarantees of the First Amendment. They would be, specifically, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Not to mention all those laws and regulations governing the IRS.

And maybe, just maybe, there is the dawning that in opening up this line of attack — The Sebelius Precedent — the inevitable demand will rise to regulate some of the most cherished cornerstones of liberalism itself.

If, as is noted, opposition to abortion and contraception is central to the Catholic faith, what are two central tenets of the faith of modern day liberalism?

That’s right: labor unions and abortion.

Let’s apply The Sebelius Precedent to both these cherished beliefs of liberals.

Labor unions: If the government can regulate the Catholic Church, surely it can change what are in fact already IRS rules governing labor unions.


Change the IRS status of labor unions from tax exempt advocacy groups and recognize that unions — like corporations — are “for profit” businesses in the business of securing profits — wages, salaries and benefits — for union members. Union members are to unions what shareholders are to corporations. President Obama has proposed an increase in taxes on corporate dividends, as the Wall Street Journal has noted.

Rich public employee unions routinely win negotiations that cost taxpayers tens of millions in payouts — dividends, if you will — to enrich union members. In the world of the private sector, wealthy unions are allowed to negotiate with corporations that are routinely paying a corporation tax — and yet the unions themselves are treated by law as tax free entities.

If, as is the liberal argument, it’s time to raise taxes in the name of fairness — isn’t it time to recognize the parity of unions and corporations, taxing unions at exactly the same rate as corporations? If the Sebelius Precedent insists that the government now has the power to regulate religious faith — isn’t it time, out of fairness, to apply the Sebelius Precedent to an article of liberal political faith? And begin taxing union benefits — the dividends of union membership — at the same rate as corporate dividends?

Abortions: Is it time to tax abortions?

In Kansas, the state legislature is investigating doing just that. Take a look at this story in the Kansas City Star. On May 7 the Kansas House passed a bill that does indeed overturn the article of faith of liberalism that abortion providers are performing a nonprofit service. The woman, as the liberal argument has long had it, benefits immensely for having an abortion. The argument has now been accepted — the woman benefits, thus the tax.

Kansas liberals, having now gotten themselves sideways on the issue precisely because of The Sebelius Precedent — remember that Secretary Sebelius is herself a former Governor of Kansas — are suddenly furious.

One can only be amused at the outrage. Here’s one Peter Brownlie, whom the Star identifies as the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. In fact, Brownlie sounds like no one more than New York’s Cardinal Dolan:

The anti-abortion forces continue to use the power of the state to impose their views and impose their views even through the tax system.

Catch that? Mr. Brownlie and his Planned Parenthood friends are angry because the government — the Kansas legislature in this case — is using “the power of the state to impose their views” on abortion.

Which is, but of course, exactly the charge of Cardinal Dolan and his fellow Catholic leaders about Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration.

Quite clearly, turnabout is fair play.

And why stop with labor unions and abortion? What about the media?

If liberal heroine Sandra Fluke can say…

Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy.

… then surely it’s fair to note that without government intervention, the cost to a conservative man or woman of getting fair and equal coverage of conservative viewpoints written or broadcast by conservatives with an audience equal to that of the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR is practically an entire lifetime of earnings if not several times that amount. Doubtless somewhere around 100% percent of middle and working class conservative Americans would be struggling financially if they tried to achieve the audience of the above mentioned news outlets. 

So why can’t the government — the FCC — force liberal news media outlets, both print and broadcast, to dedicate fifty percent of their print space and airtime to conservatives? Yes, I know the FCC doesn’t regulate print media — that too can be changed.

Better yet — make that fairer still — since conservatives have only one cable news network (Fox News) and one national broadsheet (Wall Street Journal) to their credit, why shouldn’t the government simply split the remaining outlets 50-50?

Isn’t it time to redistribute liberal media? Fair, after all, is fair.

Of America’s “national” broadcast and cable networks, plus newspapers and magazines — ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time and Newsweek — why shouldn’t they simply be redistributed 50-50 between conservatives and liberals?

If the Pope is no longer infallible on Catholic Doctrine — why is the Sulzberger family infallible in forcing their liberal views on the newspaper they own — the New York Times?

Let’s go back to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood receives federal tax dollars? Excellent. Then 50 percent of the decision-making power of Planned Parenthood should be redistributed to those who are pro-life and are footing the bill for Planned Parenthood. A government regulation here, a government regulation there and — presto! The chairmanship of Planned Parenthood would rotate annually between liberal and conservative. By government mandate.

The current chair of Planned Parenthood is liberal Cecilia Guthrie Boone. As long as conservatives are being forced to pick up the tab for Ms. Boone’s organization, I already have my pick for Ms. Boone’s successor:

Sarah Palin.

A highly accomplished woman who has served in business, run a city, run a state and been a vice-presidential nominee, Governor Palin is also the mother of five children and has often discussed how she wrestled personally with the issue of abortion when realizing she was carrying Trig, a Down syndrome baby. Who better to bring a government-mandated balance to the taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood and lead the 50 percent of conservatives who will be mandated to serve on the Planned Parenthood board than Sarah Palin?

Then there’s that stalwart of legal liberalism — the American Civil Liberties Union. Following The Sebelius Precedent, what’s to keep a future conservative administration from deciding that the ACLU is philosophically unbalanced? And removing the group’s right to run itself according to its own cherished liberal views of American life and law?

And so on and so on. Right through the long list of liberal’s sacred beliefs.

Come to think of it — perhaps the easiest way to do this is redefine liberalism and call it exactly what it has become: a religion. Replete with its cherished sacraments of global warming, abortion, labor unions and whatever else is in the liberal equivalent of the Bible — regulate all of it. 

And tax it.

This would be funny if in fact the consequences of what the Obama Administration is actually doing with the Catholic Church weren’t so far reaching.

But the attack on the Catholic Church isn’t funny. It is in fact an attack on religious liberty.

And, while liberals may not yet realize it, it is precisely the kind of attack that can be turned around on those who launched it. Just as the Kansas legislature is doing by taxing the liberal article of faith that is abortion.

Otherwise known as The Sebelius Precedent.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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