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Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Move to Amend" misses the point

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:30 AM (#)

Leftists were furious with the Citizens United decision two years ago, and Barack Obama disgraced himself and his office with his political attack on the Supreme Court during the State of the Union shortly after the case was decided. Now, Leftists are working to amend the Constitution to deny free speech rights to corporations.

Here's the problem: They don't get it.

The First Amendment was never intended to grant the five freedoms it protects. The Declaration of Independence made it clear that the founders believed that men are "endowed by their Creator" with inalienable rights. Those rights exist independent of government and cannot be granted or taken away by government. That's why when you read the text of the First Amendment, it is a limitation on government, not a guarantee of rights.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The reason why government may not restrict the free speech rights of corporations is not because corporations are people. (Corporations are made up of people, though. This is not Skynet, folks.) The reason why government may not restrict the free speech rights of corporations is because the First Amendment is a limitation on government. There are no exceptions in the First Amendment for unions or corporations - it is a protection for all free speech.

The reason "Move to Amend" is so dangerous is because it seeks to take away the right to free speech for some Americans. Once you write into the Constitution that certain groups of people do not have the protection of the First Amendment, you set a dangerous precedent that empowers government at the expense of individual liberty.

I would point out that most churches are technically 501(c)3 corporations, so this could be incredibly destructive for religious freedom. After all, since "corporations are not people" and do not have free speech rights, what legal justification is there to stop the government from regulating the content of sermons?

The First Amendment has served America well for over 235 years, and there is no need to tinker with it. Furthermore, we live in a time where the power of individual people to impact public discourse has never been greater. The internet in general and social media in particular has leveled the playing field in a way the founders could have never imagined. We should not abandon the wisdom of the men who created the greatest system of government in human history.

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