Opinion: Editorials

Examiner Editorial: Washington bureaucrats use force to suffocate liberty

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Photo - Sign on Main IRS Building in Washington, DC, United States
Sign on Main IRS Building in Washington, DC, United States
Opinion,Editorial,IRS

Remember Armand Armendariz, the Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator who resigned after regaling an audience of Big Green activists with a history lesson to illustrate his agency's approach to critics of the EPA's harshest policies? When the Romans conquered a new province, he said, they would "... find the first five guys they saw and they'd crucify them ..." to make the province "really easy to manage for the next few years." The EPA, he continued, also makes "examples of people who are not complying with the law, you make examples out of them, use it as a deterrent method ... Find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and make examples of them."

That Armendariz was not alone at the EPA in punishing those who disagree with its policies is seen in revelations last week by The Washington Examiner's Michal Conger on the agency's double standards in handling of Freedom of Information Act requests. Reproduction fee waiver requests from conservative nonprofits viewed as hostile by EPA officials were denied more than 90 percent of the time, while those from friendly liberal nonprofits were approved more than 90 percent. At least two congressional committees are now investigating the EPA's ham-fisted approval process.

Then there are the revelations of IRS targeting of conservative Tea Party, evangelical and pro-Israel groups seeking nonprofit status beginning in 2010 and continuing through the 2012 election. President Obama's re-election campaign viewed those organizations as hostile and that antipathy was clearly understood from top to bottom of the tax agency. As a result, groups seen as friendly to Obama received tax-exemption approval within weeks, whereas those viewed as unfriendly waited as much as two years, many only to be rejected.

Unfortunately, there's more. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice combined last week on instructions to the University of Montana to implement a breathtakingly broad speech code that is certain to violate thousands of students' First Amendment rights. Preventing sexual harassment on campus is the pretext for the policy, which the government says is its blueprint for codes to be adopted by all colleges and universities. Harassment is explicitly defined as including speech that isn't necessarily offensive to an "objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation." In other words, it's sufficient that the listener is offended, regardless of intent or the particular facts of a given situation.

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has fought campus speech codes for decades. He sees nothing good coming from the blueprint, noting that the Education Department "has enlisted the help of the Department of Justice to mandate campus speech codes so broad that virtually every student will regularly violate them. The DOE and DOJ are ignoring decades of legal decisions, the Constitution, and common sense, and it is time for colleges and the public to push back." In short, it's another case of liberals using government force to impose policies that suffocate individual liberty.

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