A few days ago, our friends at National Review Online editorialized against the so-called “People’s Rights Amendment,” which is an attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s holding in the Citizens United case, a holding that is anathema to the President and many of his supporters. Matt Franck has found for us the text of the amendment, which he rightly characterizes as “the worst idea the left has had in many a moon,” though, to be sure, it has lots of competition.
Let me join the chorus by making explicit a consideration that I think is implicit in the objections raised thus far. Amog the associations that would be denied any sort of constitutional status by this proposed amendment are churches. It’s hard to see how my individual freedom of religion could mean anything significant apart from my ability to congregate with others called to corporate worship. Now, I know that corporate bodies of worshippers are subject now to all sorts of incidental governmental regulations, that the freedom of religion is not (and ought not to be) absolute.
But imagine a world in which once I step outside the privacy of my closet, my corporate religious behavior is entirely subject to government regulation. Imagine, for example, how Hosanna-Tabor would have been decided.
Well, alright, I am perhaps exaggerating. It’s quite likely that voters would display enough good sense not to prmit governments to exercise that sort of comprehensive regulatory power. We should rely more on a vigilant citizenry than on a court whose membership depends upon the whims of presidents and whose opinions are all too often attuned to cosmopolitan (and secular) elites. But the first act of vigilance is to prevent the enactment of a measure whose (perhaps unintended) consequences are potentially so far-reaching.