Supreme Court Decision in 'Citizens United v. FEC' Empowers New Citizen Action

 

Deacon Keith Fournier

 
  1/22/2010
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - The decision in “Citizens United v. FEC” was handed down on Thursday, January 21, 2010, the day before millions of Americans commemorate Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision which eviscerated the Fundamental Right to Life of our youngest neighbors. The “coincidence” of the events is vital for all who know what we must do to overturn Roe.

The non-profit organization for which the case is named describes itself this way: “Citizens United is an organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizens' control. Through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization, Citizens United seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security. Citizens United's goal is to restore the founding fathers' vision of a free nation, guided by the honesty, common sense, and good will of its citizens.”

In January of 2008 Citizens United released a documentary on then candidate Hillary Clinton entitled Hillary, the Movie. It intended to release the production within thirty days of the primary election through Video on Demand. It also wanted to run advertisements on television to call attention to the message. Concerned that such an activity would be considered a violation of the campaign finance “reform” Citizens United sought what is called declaratory relief from the Court. Otherwise, it ran the risk of facing criminal charges.

The “FEC” (Federal Election Commission) had determined that Citizens United’s desire to offer the documentary to cable stations for on-demand play violated the “McCain-Feingold” campaign finance law. The group determined that what was at stake was the right of the people to participate freely in the election process. So, they used the controversy as a vehicle to set up the course of events which led to the landmark decision handed down on Thursday, January 21, 2010.

This association asked the US Supreme Court to overrule itself and strike down the most significant restrictions imposed on what is called “corporate” free speech. Remember, “Non-Profits”, the vehicle used by many in our cause, are also corporations. Citizens United contended that the statutory scheme regulating political speech is a violation of the Free Speech clause contained within the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court used this case to rule on the constitutionality of restrictions imposed on political speech and expenditures by corporations, associations and organizations through campaign-finance laws. To the shock of some observers, the US Supreme Court reversed itself and overruled the central provisions of “campaign finance reform”. Within minutes of the decision the reactions and the posturing began. The Obama administration called for legislative action to undo the impact of the ruling. However, there is little chance that such an effort will succeed.

The well written majority opinion traces the confused labyrinth of cases and statutes which act to restrict corporate/organizational speech and expenditures related to it. Many observers felt the Court would not overrule itself but use a narrow ground to somehow remedially approach the issue. The majority opinion states the standard for such a rare action as overruling past holdings, “Our precedent is to be respected unless the most convincing of reasons demonstrates that adherence to it puts us on a course that is sure error….”

The fact that the Court overruled its prior decisions is very significant to anyone who has set their sites on overturning Roe v Wade and engaging in the kind of massive political action such a result will require. We must persuade the Court to reverse Roe and Doe. This will take massive organizational development as well as effective and sustained political and legal activism. It will also take a lot of money. In addition, we must encourage candidates to run for office who recognize the fundamental human right to life, oppose those who do not and pressure those who waver.

The Anti-Life decisions of Roe and its companion case Doe reached into what the Court called the penumbra of the Constitution in order to manufacture an utterly indefensible and incomprehensible judicial holding. The result was far more egregious than the holding overruled by this decision. By Judicial Fiat, the Roe Court “removed” the Right to Life of millions of our fellow human persons and first neighbors. They then, in effect, placed the Police Power of the State behind protecting their killers.

Roe is grounded in faulty history, relied upon disproven junk “science” and rejected both the Natural Law and the Equal protection Clause of the US Constitution. Its flawed reasoning cries out for reversal. Even an increasing number of those who mistakenly support the so called “Right to Choose” - which essentially empowers those who are stronger to reach within the first home of the whole human race and kill in the name of “freedom” - increasingly admit that Roe has put the Court on a “course which is sure error”.

The decision handed down in Citizens United v. FEC is what they call in political and policy activism circles a “game changer.” Here are some salient quotes from the majority opinion:

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“The First Amendment does not permit laws that force speakers to retain a campaign finance attorney, conduct demographic marketing research, or seek declaratory rulings before discussing the most salient political issues of our day.”

“Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints…. Prohibited, too, are restrictions distinguishing among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others. …. As instruments to censor, these categories are interrelated: Speech restrictions based on the identity of the speaker are all too often simply a means to control content.

“Quite apart from the purpose or effect of regulating content, moreover, the Government may commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the Government deprives the disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speaker’s voice. The Government may not by these means deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration. The First Amendment protects speech and speaker, and the ideas that flow from each…

“We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers. Both history and logic lead us to this conclusion….If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech. …

“When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.

“Rapid changes in technology—and the creative dynamic inherent in the concept of free expression—counsel against upholding a law that restricts political speech in certain media or by certain speakers. Today, 30-second television ads may be the most effective way to convey a political message….

“Due consideration leads to this conclusion: Austin should be and now is overruled. We return to the principle established in Buckley and Bellotti that the Government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity. No sufficient governmental interest justifies limits on the political speech of nonprofit or for-profit corporations.”

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We must change this Nation’s laws in order to ensure that the Fundamental and inalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are protected for all of our neighbors - including our young, our infirm and our elderly.This opinion helps us along the path to victory.

We should be emboldened by this Supreme Court decision. We should also use it as a blueprint for our future political and legal activism. It is time to follow our President’s example in at least one way, by becoming “community organizers.”

Wielding the language set forth in this opinion we need to build – and massively fund - the organizations, associations, and movements desperately needed in this urgent hour. It is time for boldness! A truly free nation must recognize the first freedom, the freedom to be born, or it will lose freedom itself. In the Wake of the March for Life, the Supreme Court Decision in “Citizens United’ Empowers a New Citizen Action.