A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Not to Beat a Dead Horse on the Recent Supreme Court Decision... But...

In a Q & A at a law school in Florida, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gives his take on why the Court was right in its recent decision on corporations and free speech. What I find interesting is Thomas gives a little history on how the limiting of speech by corporations started in the first place. He states,

"...the history of Congressional regulation of corporate involvement in politics had a dark side, pointing to the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to federal candidates in 1907."

"Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation," Justice Thomas said, referring to Senator Benjamin Tillman. "Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them."

It is thus a mistake, the justice said, to applaud the regulation of corporate speech as "some sort of beatific action."

Interesting, isn't it? In the fear over the corrupting influence of lots of money, some folk haven't even considered the corrupting influence of regulating speech.

I welcome all comments on Justice Thomas' comments. No ad hominem arguments are allowed. Substance only please.

You can read the full story here.

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian


Bruce said...

Justice Thomas has an amazing ability to appeal to one side interpretation of history whild ignoring to context and substance of Ben Tillman. Not that Ben Tillman was not racist. He was. But that had nothing to do with his desire to regulate corporate corruption of the American political scene. The depression later vindicated the kinds of changes, regulations and limitations Tillman advocated. This whole discussion has taken place w/o regard to the barely past financial meltdown and the one that is likely to come because we refuse to look the court's decision and implications in finacial matters. Justice Thomas should stop cherry picking small historical sidenotes and discuss the whole history of Tillman's influence and the incredible price this nation paid for ignoring him. The financial meltdown was caused by the government letting banks do exactly what they did in the 1920s. History is repeating itself, and the best we can come up with is an insignificant slanted view of the history of corporate regulation. Your right Allan, the horse is dead.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Holy Cow, Bruce! I have no idea where to begin in responding to your revisionist history of Tillman, how the Depression vindicated Tillman (?), the first cause of the recent financial meltdown, and your strange mischaracterization of Justice Thomas' argument as "cherry picking."

I just don't have the time nor desire to respond-- only to say that reading your arguments on this subject has convinced me that the Supreme Court has made the right decision.

Allan R. Bevere said...

By the way, Bruce... You and I are long overdue to have lunch. It is my turn to come to your place.

stephen said...

Thomas most certainly is cherry-picking history. The call to limit corporate political contributions didn't start with Tillman or have as its aim racist intent, it started with Republican Teddy Roosevelt in 1904, and its aim was to stop the selling political favors and corruption.

Teddy was right.

This decision will open the floodgates for corruption and the selling of our government to the highest bidder.

Allan R. Bevere said...


You are correct that it started with Roosevelt, but you entirely miss the point of Thomas' comments. He is not cherry picking the evidence. He is simply pointing out that racism was one key aspect of Tillman's interest in restricting corporate speech. All he needs is one example to prove his point. The motives for limiting free speech can be nefarious.

bthomas said...

Excellent decision. Excellent explanation.