When we think of the First Amendment to the Constitution, we think of the freedoms of religion, speech and the press. Occasionally, someone will mention the right to peaceably assemble. But for most people, the discussion ends there. Can you name which right guaranteed by the First Amendment I have not mentioned?

Okay, quiz over. The right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” a concept that has its origins in the Magna Carta. In modern day English, the right to lobby.

Hint. That’s why we have lobbyists who try to influence government. The government cannot ban lobbyists.

But Obama is pushing the limits, as noted in an article today at Politico:

Free speech advocates from across the political spectrum are accusing President Barack Obama of impinging on First Amendment rights and are gearing up to taketheir case public.

At issue is an unprecedented directive that Obama — who has long railed against lobbyists as the personification of a corrupt Washington culture — issued last week barring officials charged with doling out stimulus funds from talking to registered lobbyists about specific projects or applicants for stimulus cash.

Under the directive, which began going into effect this week, agency officials are required to begin meetings about stimulus funding for projects by asking whether any party to the conversation is a lobbyist.

There is good reason why the Framers of the Constitution protected the right to petition government. Societies which do not protect the right to petition government almost inevitably turn into cults of personality, autocracies, or totalitarian regimes:

Next week, the left-leaning ACLU will join with the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the trade group the American League of Lobbyists in sending a letter to the White House protesting the policy, said League President Dave Wenhold….

“This is a slippery slope,” he said, asserting the practical effect is to bar lobbyists from most — if not all — discussions about the stimulus.

“And that is unconstitutional, because it takes a class of people and says that they are not worthy to petition the government,” Wenhold said, adding that his group will hold a Tuesday news conference to highlight the First Amendment impact of the rule. “It just goes too far,” he said, asserting “if anybody is paying attention, they should be wondering ‘is my group next?’ If they take the right to petition the government away from one class of people, who is going to be next?”

I can’t say I’m surprised. Obama has had a troubling tendency towards intolerance of dissent, about which I have blogged since my first post in October 2008.

Obama’s campaign enlisted a group of prosecutors in Missouri to threaten criminal prosecution of those who “lied” about Obama; Obama used the “race card” repeatedly to shut down opposing voices; Obama urged his supporters to “get in the face” of those who disagreed; the attempts to shut down conservative voices such as Rush Limbaugh are being run from the White House; Obama supporters used intimidation in the open-vote caucuses to intimidate Clinton supporters; from the earliest days of his political career Obama gained victory by having opponents knocked off the ballot and having supporters dig up personal dirt on opponents; the success of Obama legislative agenda depends upon demonizing a small portion of the population; and strictly from a personality viewpoint, Obama seems to have a need to make fun of others.

I don’t agree with the ACLU on everything, but they are onto something here. Quinn Hillyer warned in Saul Alinsky Takes the White House that once in power Obama would attempt to change the rules of how we interact with government to preserve political power. And so it is.

The imperial tendencies of this administration need to be nipped in the bud.