Members of the Project 21 black leadership group are condemning remarks today by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) comparing today’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to the Dred Scott case.
The decision in Citizens United eases certain restrictions on the free speech of businesses, associations, organized labor and certain advocacy groups with regard to their participation in political campaigns. In response, Grayson said: “This is the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case.”
In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled that black Americans who were either slaves or the descendants of slaves could not be, and never had been, U.S. citizens. The decision, formally known as Scott v. Sandford, also invalidated the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery in portions of U.S. territories in the west.
Project 21 members said:
Bishop Council Nedd II: “In Dred Scott, the Court equated people with property. The Court’s decision today was about giving people a voice. There is no correlation between the two. Congressman Grayson needs to apologize. His flippant and unenlightened statement offends me personally, and it disrespects generations of black people who suffered from slavery.” (Council Nedd II is the bishop of the Chesapeake and the Northeast for the Episcopal Missionary Church.)
Horace Cooper: “Where has Representative Alan Grayson been? He compares today’s landmark decision – in which free speech trumps FEC restrictions – to the awful ruling that black people are nothing more than property. He’s off base yet again. It’s more than a little ironic that Democrats praised Dred Scott when it was handed down over a hundred years ago, yet now stand opposed to fundamental freedoms such as free speech today.” (Horace Cooper is a former visiting assistant professor at the George Mason University School of Law.)
Ellis Washington: “As a black man, I am outraged that Representative Grayson would equate the bondage of slavery with today’s Court ruling extending freedom of speech to businesses and corporations in the political process, and having the courage to bring modern jurisprudence in line with the guarantees of the Constitution. In other words, the Court held that money equals speech and radio shows, media entities and corporations equal people. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech for everyone!” (Ellis Washington is a former editor of the Michigan Law Review.)
In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “Our nation’s speech dynamic is changing, and informative voices should not have to circumvent onerous restrictions to exercise their First Amendment rights. The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach.”
Project 21, established in 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).