It's not every day that our political leaders truly do the right thing.
As the pastor of Victory for the World Church who has experienced backlash for taking principled stands, I know that doing the right thing is not always easy. So today I want to stand in solidarity with those who are speaking out against an obvious problem in America: corporate money in our democracy.
A representative from my home state of Georgia, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04), has been a champion of fighting the corrosive influence of big money on our elections. Rep. Johnson has been working to counter the effects of the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling that said corporations have the same right to spend money to affect elections as individual people.
As he wrote earlier this year, "The idea that corporations have the same First Amendment protections of free speech as people is troubling. Corporations are not people. They don't attend our schools, get married and have children."
It's true -- I have never seen a corporation sitting in the pews of my church on Sunday. There were not any corporations standing in line with me at the polls on November 6. But they have a strong voice in our elections, especially after the Citizens United decision paved the way for the creation of super PACs and their anonymous money that fuel political organizations like Crossroads GPS.
It's no surprise then that a myopic right-wing website CNS News attacked Johnson for this and other comments, implying that his call for limits on corporate money in politics was somehow akin to a call for the authoritarian suppression of speech.
Lately I have heard the CNS News' and other fringe conservative provocateurs of the world pushing the lie that those who oppose Citizens United are trying to limit free speech. In fact, the opposite is true. As Justice Stevens pointed out in his dissent to the Citizens United case, by allowing huge corporations to be given equal status to individual people -- allowing them to use their vast funds to overwhelm our elections process -- the ruling itself is the true threat to the free exchange of ideas that the First Amendment is intended to protect. It is important to speak out about these falsehoods and set the story straight about Citizens United.
Rep. Johnson has been a leader in that work. He is the co-sponsor of two proposed constitutional amendments to prevent corporate money from buying our elections. This is a popular idea that polling shows Americans support. An Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll this fall found that 83% of Americans think 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 the U.S. House." It's just common sense. I know I have never heard people in my congregation complaining that there is too little money in politics.
As an African American faith leader who values justice, democracy, and the hard-won right to vote, I believe it is my responsibility to advocate for the protection of our electoral process. So today I stand in solidarity with Congressman Johnson, who aptly wrote that "Secret money should not be able to drown out the voices of the American people and sell our Democracy to the highest bidder."
Let's let the critics know that American democracy is not for sale.