I like the Fifth Amendment.
I took it myself in 2007 when Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson was witch-hunting with his grand jury. My attorney advised that I had more to fear from innocently misstating something and being vindictively charged with perjury than from the ridiculous indictments the AG would file against the “Oklahoma 3” — and then dismiss.
The Fifth Amendment protects the individual from government fishing expeditions, from browbeating by big, bad prosecutors — which includes congressional committees acting as such.
I don’t want to diminish our Fifth Amendment rights in any way, for any citizen.
Even when Citizen Lois Lerner asserts her Fifth Amendment privilege while the acting director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division. And yes, even in yesterday’s repeat performance — having since retired with a pension — she still avoids congressional questions about official actions that appear to violate fundamental civil rights.
The House committee may charge Lerner with contempt (I already do). Admittedly, without her testimony, we may never know the full extent of the official campaign against certain political groups.
But we do know enough to take action.
Free and democratic participation in society requires a better system. Each non-profit group that forms must file a tax return, so there is transparency and oversight. The time has come to shut down the IRS Exempt Organizations Division approval process for non-profit groups and end the current prior restraint on participating in public policy.
We don’t need the Internal Revenue Service to stand as a censor bureaucratically or politically approving or dawdling to decide whether certain groups are permitted to organize.
A free society cannot tolerate it.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.