Posted by on June 17th, 2010
For Immediate Release
June 17, 2010
Contact: Gail Darrell
Local Law declares “corporate rights” cannot compete with the rights of living people.
Monroe enacts local law asserting that the right of people to govern in their community is superior to legal claims that corporations are “persons” with constitutional rights.
(Monroe, Maine) On Monday night, June 14th, 2010, residents at Town Meeting in Monroe, Maine voted 40 – 27 to adopt a local ordinance that declares that corporations doing business within the Town are not “people” with unalienable rights.
Seth Yentes, planning board member and Allyn Beecher stood to answer questions about the ordinance. “Our Declaration of Independence says that people are born with unalienable rights and that the purpose of government is to protect those rights,” said Beecher after the meeting. “Corporations are not born; they are created by the state in the name of the people. By issuing charters of incorporation on behalf of the people, the state grants limited and temporary privileges that allow a corporation to mimic certain human legal behavior. But the state has no authority to bestow constitutional rights intended for real people in a way that allows corporations to compete with or deprive us of our rights.”
The practical implications of the law are significant. The Town Select Board and the people at Town Meeting can adopt laws that promote sustainable practices and development based on the aspirations of the community, rather than bowing to the claims of corporate lawyers that local laws may not “interfere” with corporate priorities. In addition, corporate representatives cannot claim to have “legal standing” that obliges the Town to allow them equal rights to testify and influence local decision-making. The new law recognizes the people as the source of governing authority and that corporations are “creatures of the state,” created with the people’s blessing, without unalienable rights. As such, their activities are subject to governance by the community in which they operate.
Both Yentes and Beecher have attended the Democracy School, a program run by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund that examines the history of corporate “rights” and the harm to peoples’ governing authority that has resulted from the U.S. Supreme Court endowing corporate property with constitutional rights intended for living people.
The ordinance, written by Allyn Beecher, took language and direction from several ordinances passed in other New England towns that were drafted by the Legal Defense Fund. Beecher spent over a year to complete the ordinance draft; meet with planning board members and selectmen; share the document with lawyers; and gather signatures to qualify the ordinance to be placed onto the warrant.
Beecher, Yentes, Planning Board member Lynn Biebel and town librarian, Martha Goodale, helped to provide information and gain support from the community. Over the past year, Beecher and Goodale were instrumental in driving the message that this ordinance speaks to the importance of protecting the community’s ability to decide what happens within Monroe. “Self-Government and consent of the governed mean that the people affected by governing decisions, and not the corporations that profit from them, have created the laws and support the laws that govern them,” commented Beecher.
The rights-based document does not restrict legitimate businesses from engaging in lawful activities within the Town of Monroe, nor does it have any impact unless the rights of the people or the health, safety and welfare of members of the community are threatened by corporations that attempt to assert constitutional authority. The local law places the rights of people and communities above the legal privileges bestowed on corporations by the state.