When Sen. Ted Cruz told the conservative pastors gathered at the Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall conference yesterday that “the Senate Democrats are going to be voting on a constitutional amendment to repeal the First Amendment,” he was met with an audible gasp. He earned more gasps when he warned that this amendment would suppress the political speech rights of the “citizenry” and “muzzle” pastors in their pulpits.
We were surprised too. That would be news!
But then it became clear what he was talking about: Senate leadership is planning to hold a vote on a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and rulings in related campaign finance cases such as this year’s McCutcheon case, which have steadily eliminated the limits on election spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.
The amendment, written by Sen. Tom Udall, would give the federal government and states the “power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents” in elections, as it was allowed to do before the Supreme Court started dismantling campaign finance regulations.
In other words, the amendment would allow Congress and state governments to set limits on the amount that corporations and wealthy individuals can spend to support and oppose candidates. So, unless a pastor also runs a super PAC, it would not affect his life all that much, much less “muzzle” him. But Cruz, employing the Religious Right’s persecution rhetoric, claims that “41 Democrats have signed on to repealing the First Amendment” because “they don’t like it when the citizenry in their community has the temerity to criticize what they’ve done” and “they don’t like it when pastors in their community stand up and speak the truth.”