COMMENTARY | Mark Whittington’s recent piece published here at the Yahoo! Contributor Network, “‘Peoples’ Rights Amendment’ Would End Free Expression,” unfortunately, is full of falsehoods.
We have written and worked with Representatives in Congress to introduce the People’s Rights Amendment to to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment clarifies that our Constitutional rights, such as free speech, are the rights of people only, and that corporations, which are not people, do not have these rights.
When you stop to think about it, it’s surprising that we even have to clarify this, because it’s simple common sense. People are people. Corporations are not. The U.S. Constitution was written to protect the rights of people. Corporations are not people. Rather, they are artificial entities, created by our government, via their corporate charters. Corporations don’t bleed. They do not die in wars. They do not have a conscience.
Yet here we are.
Corporations have immense privileges, including limited liability, perpetual life, and the ability to aggregate massive treasuries, privileges conferred on them by government-given charters and by various laws. Corporations serve important economic functions, and to enable those functions, it makes sense for corporations to have certain legal rights, such as the ability to enter into contracts. However, because of their financial and legal advantages, corporations are now the biggest economic powers on Earth.
They are now abusing that power, seeking both to take control over American democracy, by spending unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcomes of our elections, and to be exempted from democratically enacted laws, such as food ingredient labeling laws and health warnings on cigarette packages. They seek to do both by claiming, falsely, that they are people, and that they therefore deserve Constitutional rights, such as free speech rights.
They do not. The U.S. Supreme Court was wrong to say, in its infamous Citizens United decision two years ago, that they do. This case overturned a century of precedent, and flew in the face of common sense. This is why 79 percent of Americans — including 68 percent of Republicans, 82 percent of independents, and 87 percent of Democrats — “support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United decision and make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people.” It’s also why the movement for a Constitutional amendment, such as the People’s Rights Amendment , is growing. Three states have formally called for one, and many more are on their way. (Join us at Free Speech For People to learn more about this growing movement.)
Those who favor extended corporate power over our lives are understandably nervous about the growing call for an amendment, so they are resorting to false charges. Mr. Whittington, for example, suggests that the People’s Rights Amendment would affect freedom of the press or freedom of religious expression. It will not. In fact, section 3 of the Amendment says specifically:
- Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.
(The full text of the amendment is provided below.)
Under the amendment, people’s rights of free expression will continue as they always have, but corporations will not separately have Constitutional rights. People will still be able to express themselves as they please. And corporations whose purpose is to disseminate this free expression will still be able to do so, based on the Constitutional rights of the people associated with them.
Newspapers will remain free to print what they want. Movie studios will remain free to produce the movies they want. People will remain free to express their religious views, both individually and collectively.
What will change is that corporations will no longer be able to falsely claim a shield of Constitutional protection to exempt them from laws they don’t like.
Corporations are artificial entities with great legal privileges and immense economic power. They neither need nor deserve Constitutional rights, which are only for people.
The complete text of the People’s Rights Amendment follows:
- Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.
- Section 2. The words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulations as the people, through their elected State and Federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.
- Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association and all such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.
The first three words in the Declaration of Independence are “We, the People”, not “We, the Corporations”. If you agree that it’s time for this common-sense reform, to restore American democracy to the people, we encourage you to show your support by signing on here.
Peter Schurman is the Campaign Director at Free Speech For People.