Terry Jeffrey
Does Comedy Central have a right to free speech?

Some congressional Democrats believe no association of human beings formed in the manner Comedy Central has been formed ought to have freedom of speech. Accordingly, they have sponsored constitutional amendments to incorporate this principal into our basic law.

This is no joke.

The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

On Capitol Hill last week, several congressmen and senators held a forum to draw attention to their efforts to ratify a constitutional amendment that -- at a minimum -- strips corporations of freedom of speech.

They have offered multiple amendments. Some seem to deny corporations all constitutional rights. Some focus more narrowly on limiting, or regulating, the money that could be raised and spent supporting or opposing candidates for office. All would diminish the Bill of Rights.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Democrats, was a leading voice at the forum. He has cosponsored an amendment with Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida that may be the most radical of all.

The key language in the Sanders-Deutch Amendment says: "The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the Untied States, or any foreign state."

It also says: "Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press."

How would this amendment apply to Comedy Central?

Well, Comedy Central is merely a cog in a larger conglomerate called Viacom -- a self-described "multinational company." Some of Viacom's other components include MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Spike TV, TV Land and Paramount Pictures.

Given that Viacom is not a "natural person" but a "for-profit corporation," the Sanders-Deutch amendment literally says "the rights protected by the Constitution of the United States ... do not extend" to it.

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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