Monday, October 22, 2012 by admin0 Responses

What is the problem?
Why are people of faith getting involved?
Are you just against corporations?

What is “corporate personhood” and is it legitimate?
What makes the Citizens United ruling so extreme? Why does calling corporations “people” lead to political corruption and a lack of transparency?

What will it take to overturn the Citizens United ruling?
How widespread is the American public’s opinion about the Citizens United ruling and its impact?
Are there any States already working to pass an amendment to limit corporate spending and the effects of the Citizens United case?
What else can we do to help build the movement to overturn Citizens United?
What is Auburn Theological Seminary?
What is Groundswell?

What is Free Speech for People?

Join the campaign!
Take action at http://bit.ly/moneyinpolitics.


What is the problem?
Special interest money in politics is warping our democratic system and making it difficult to address our country’s biggest challenges.

Candidates spend too much time courting donors and have less and less time to speak with voters or craft solutions to our biggest problems. Voters, especially younger Americans, tune out because they view our elections as un-democratic and potentially corrupt. The rich and the poor grow further and further apart, a trend reinforced by a path to electoral victory studded with high-dollar fundraisers and special-interest, backroom deals. Attack ads saturate the airwaves, dividing us when we need to come together to solve our country’s enormous challenges.

Making matters worse, on January 21, 2010, the US Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. FEC, overturned longstanding precedent barring corporate expenditures in our elections. The ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our political process. The ruling has also led to the rise of SuperPACs, through which corporations and mega-rich individuals are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in support of or opposed to candidates, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens. The Citizens United ruling made the problem on money in politics in the United States exponentially worse.

The principle is also deeply troubling. At the core of the Citizens United decision is the dangerous and misguided claim that corporations have all the same rights as people under the US Constitution. Our constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, are the sacred principles that define America, and they properly belong only to living, breathing people.

Money in politics generally has been an issue of concern for decades, but the Citizens United ruling has now opened the floodgates to special interest spending and is creating a crisis of democracy that needs immediate and far-reaching repair.


Why are people of faith getting involved?
We believe it is our calling as religious and moral leaders to sound the alarm on significant systemic threats to the foundations of our society. We believe money in politics, inflamed most recently by the Citizens United decision, is cause for alarm.

Just as the Biblical prophets railed against economic wealth and power that resulted in injustice for the people, we cry out against a system that tears at the fabric of our democracy and is endangering the promise of a government for, of, and by the people.

We are also disturbed that a court has extended the unique status accorded to human beings, made in God’s image, to corporations. For a corporation to be granted all the rights of a human being who has been created in the image of God is at best a twisting of our most sacred texts, and at worst idolatry, one of the most significant violations of our faiths. People, not corporations, were made in the image of God.


Are you just against corporations?
In a word, no. Corporations are useful legal entities that help our society deliver goods and services, provide jobs, cultivate innovation, and build wealth. But corporations are artificial, created by people via the granting of a corporate charter. As a result, it is our proper role as people to maintain appropriate limits on their power. We endow corporations with great privileges, including limited liability, perpetual life, and the ability to aggregate vast wealth. If we add to this the constitutional rights that have the power to trump democratically enacted laws through court challenges, corporate power quickly escalates beyond any control. Such unaccountable, unlimited corporate power can have enormous human costs.


What is “corporate personhood” and is it legitimate?
Corporate personhood is the legal concept that a corporation may enter into contracts, sue, and be sued in court in the same way as natural persons or unincorporated associations of persons. This concept is essential to the ability of corporations to perform their useful role in society, and is beyond practical dispute.

However, over the years, corporations have claimed their “personhood” in the law also means they hold constitutional rights, like the right to free speech. For example, corporations have claimed a “free speech” right not to speak – and convincing courts to overturn laws such as labeling requirements on milk coming from dairies using a Monsanto cow growth hormone, and other laws in the areas of health care, civil rights, and environmental protection.

What is really new today is the dramatic expansion of the corporate constitutional right of free speech because of the Citizens United Supreme Court case. This case, unfortunately for our democracy, found that corporations have a constitutionally guaranteed right to political speech and cannot be restricted in their electoral spending. Corporations can now spend essentially unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns.

Our effort, while objecting on theological and religious grounds to the concept of corporate constitutional rights, does not advocate for eliminating entirely the concept of corporate personhood. Rather, we believe that we must set and maintain appropriate limits on “corporate personhood” to ensure that our democracy remains of, for, and by the people and so our democracy continues to protect and value the sanctity of human beings, for they were created in the image of God. We object, vigorously, to the idea that corporations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums of money to sway elections in their favor.


What makes the Citizens United ruling so extreme? Why does calling corporations “people” lead to political corruption and a lack of transparency?
In the 2010 Citizens United case, the Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of ruling that corporations have the same constitutional rights as people, such as the right to free speech. Because the court previously ruled, in the 1976 case Buckley v. Valeo, that campaign spending by people is equal to speech and therefore cannot be limited, it follows that corporations are now allowed to make unlimited political expenditures.

The practical effect of these decisions has been to allow corporations to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence our elections.


What will it take to overturn the Citizens United ruling?
There are only two ways to overturn Supreme Court rulings: the Court could reverse the decision itself, or the people can do so via a Constitutional amendment.

According to Article V of the Constitution, adoption of a new amendment requires passage by ⅔ of both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by ¾ of the states, which generally act through their legislatures. When these thresholds are met, the amendment is enacted. Americans have done this 27 times in our history, seven of them reversing egregious Supreme Court decisions. It is now time to do so again.

It is highly unlikely that the US Supreme Court will reverse its Citizens United ruling. But a national movement for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is growing rapidly, with nine states having formally called for one, along with hundreds of cities and towns, and with support from thousands of elected officials across the country. (Check out Free Speech For People for more information about the People’s Rights Amendment and other amendments now under consideration in Congress to overturn Citizens United.)


How widespread is the American public’s opinion about the Citizens United ruling and its impact?
A large majority of Americans, spanning the entire political spectrum, disapprove of the Citizens United ruling and its impacts on the political system and support reversing it via a constitutional amendment.

According to a 2010 nationwide survey conducted by Free Speech For People[i]:

  • 82% of Americans believe Congress should take action to limit corporate spending on elections.
  • 79% of Americans would support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United decision and make clear that corporations do not have the same rights as people.
  • This 79% figure includes 68% of Republicans, 82% of independents, and 87% of Democrats.

According to a more recent poll conducted in August, 2012, by the Associated Press and the National Constitution Center[ii]:

  • 83% of Americans believe there should be limits on the amount of money corporations, unions, and other organizations can contribute to outside organizations trying to influence campaigns for president, Senate, and U.S. House.
  • This 83% consists of 81% of Republicans, 78% of independents, and 85% of Democrats

Are there any States already working to pass an amendment to limit corporate spending and the effects of the Citizens United case?
Yes. Nine states’ legislatures have formally called on Congress to pass an amendment and send it to the states for ratification. These states are: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

In addition, on November 6th, 2012, voters in Colorado and Montana will each face ballot initiatives that limit corporate spending and include language that directly challenges the Citizens United ruling.

To read the language of Colorado’s ballot initiative, click here.
To read the language of Montana’s ballot initiative, click here.


What else can we do to help build the movement to overturn Citizens United?
Educate yourself. Educate others. Spread the word. These are the most important things you can do to help build the movement. To educate yourself, go to Free Speech For People’s “The Problem” page. Share what you learn with your friends and family members. Engage them. Post interesting articles on Facebook and Twitter. Forward Groundswell’s emails. Send this page to your friends.

Also, check out Free Speech For People’s “Get Involved” page. There, you can write a letter to your local editor, download a petition form to collect signatures at events, contact your legislator and more. Ultimately, this is a grassroots effort and your local work on the ground will reap great benefits for the movement.


What is Auburn Theological Seminary?
Auburn Theological Seminary equips bold and resilient leaders—religious and secular, women and men, adults and teens—with the tools and resources they need for our complex, multifaith world. Auburn provides them with education, research, support, and media savvy, so that they can bridge religious divides, build community, pursue justice, and heal the world.


What is Groundswell?
Groundswell, the social action initiative of Auburn Seminary, builds the multifaith movement for justice through innovative campaigns.


What is Free Speech for People?
Free Speech For People is a national nonpartisan campaign that works to challenge the misuse of corporate power and restore republican democracy to the people. Launched on the day of the Citizens United ruling, Free Speech For People has helped to catalyze and lead the growing movement for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling and reclaim our democracy.



[ii] "Poll: Americans largely in favor of campaign spending limitations" by Morgan Little, The Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2012, http://freespeechforpeople.org/node/448

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