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The 2013-14 Session of the Supreme Court began this Monday…and a lot is on the line. Matters of abortion, freedom of religion, campaign finance reform, executive powers have all made the docket. I would like to offer several reminders as we watch this year’s judiciary review unravel:
• Corporations are not people
• “Separation of church and state” appears no where in the Constitution
• Abortion is a crummy issue to vote for your president on
Allow me to elaborate
1. Corporations are not people, be they get treated as such
We have limited the amount acceptable for individuals and businesses to give in matters of political campaigns. There are a lot of reasons for this but avoiding a corrupt, quid-pro-quo is the biggest. Placing a limit of $2,500 on political giving to any one candidate and a $46,500 aggregate for multiple person contributions seems to accomplish this. In 2008 Citizens United vs. FEC changed all this…for the worse. Now corporations are arguing that through the 1st Amendment, the free speech clause, that their (the corporation’s) rights are being hampered by restricting their spending/donating power.
Yes that is right, Walmart has personal rights under the Constitution. This is the argument before the court…Money=A Voice. What we purchase says something about what we value…If that is true, than how we spend our money shouldn’t be infringed upon – that is a violation of the 1st Amendment (Freed Speech). This Amendment applies to corporations just as it applies to people. That means that Chevron or Apple should be able to spend as much capital on political campaigns as they feel fit…because they have POLITICAL RIGHTS!!! The founding fathers didn’t have any problem with wealth influencing politics, this is why we had property qualifications for voting and did not allow for the direct election of senators. But the game has changed a lot since then…I don’t think Madison could possibly envision the power and reach of modern, technical corporations.
This isn’t the first time this argument has been made. Back in the Gilded Age many corporations argued that they shouldn’t have to pay a minimum wage because it was a form of slavery. That is correct…the burgeoning form of business known as “corporations” sued under the newly ratified 14th Amendment, arguing that a minimum wage was a form of slavery or servitude and that the federal government had no right to intervene.
Should corporations have the same rights as people before the law? Should they have limited liability and a limitless lifespan? A lot of people say no…but it isn’t our choice…this rests with the Supreme Court. Pay attention this year as some very important things could be coming down the pipeline.
2. Separation of church and state is an “idea” (not a clause) to protect religion from the corruption of the state.
Over the past few decades the notion that the state and organized religion should be divided by a massive, immutable chasm has grown. Through the likes of the ACLU and the growth of pluralism in America we have embraced this idea…that some how faith corrupts the state. Once again, not what the framers of our government intended. They saw faith as the only thing that could produce real virtue, the thing that a good government hinges upon.
“Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.” – John Adams
“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.” – Benjamin Rush
Perhaps one of the engines corrupting our state is a faithlessness. I am not suggesting by any means that we hang crosses and the ten commandments in some sort of coercive attempt to Christianize everyone. I literally mean faith…encouraging a deep, soul searching intelligence that we seem to be so bankrupt of.
3. Pro-life, Pro-choice should be the last filter you run a political candidate through
I need to watch my phraseology on this one as it is an incredibly emotional issue for almost all of us (as it should be). The problem is, as will be seen this coming year, political candidates don’t decided legal issues of abortion…the Supreme Court does. There are 9 justices with life terms on the court, these are appointed by the president only when one retires or dies. Your presidential representative may go an entire term without getting to appoint a new justice…even then they need to be confirmed by the Senate. Once a pro-life candidate is on the bench they will need to wait for a pertinent case to come on the docket. After all that the likelihood that they would be outvoted 5-4 is very likely. Is abortion an incredibly important and relevant issue today? YES! Should this be the first thing you consider when looking at a Congressional or Presidential candidate? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
I could go on about presidential powers of recess nomination, the lack of democracy at work within the SC, the absurdity of our standards of judgement for the judiciary burden and so on, but I have said my two cents. There are a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to issues of law, here were a few I think every American should be aware of. After all, as Thomas Jefferson said:
“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” – Jefferson