Acton’s president and co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico, recently wrote a piece for Real Clear Religion about corporations and social justice activism. He warns that the religious left’s attempts to stifle free speech in corporate boardrooms would certainly negatively impact our political life.
Every annual meeting season, we watch as a small group of activist groups on the left such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility submit proxy resolutions that demand disclosures of corporate public policy expenditures. This is done, these groups claim, in furtherance of a more “just and sustainable world.” In fact, such resolutions are designed to first bully corporations into disclosing lobbying activities and then promptly turn the tables by conducting aggressive campaigns in the press to shame them.
But the religious underpinnings for such arguments are spurious. The argument always goes that corporations have money and the poor and disadvantaged (always “disenfranchised” from the political process) do not. Therefore, according to this logic, it follows that it’s unfair that corporations are allowed to make public policy expenditures to unduly influence the political process. Curiously, opponents of such spending are often themselves corporate entities (albeit non-profit entities) that spend large sums of money to voice their own opinions.
The religious left should heed the counsel of William Cavanaugh, a senior research professor at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University in Chicago. In his white paper for Auburn Seminary’s very own critique of corporate political spending, Cavanaugh identifies Biblical precedents for corporate personhood. Adam and Christ, he points out, incorporate the whole human race. This, he says, shows that personhood properly understood cannot be limited to the individual. Likewise, writes Cavanaugh, “Paul’s image of the Church as the body of Christ (e.g. I Corinthians 12) is so powerful; our salvation is our reunification into the corporate person of Christ.”
Civil society, says Cavanaugh, requires us all to speak “with united voices. Unions, families, churches, and other organizations of people must remain strong in order to resist the reduction of public life to a binary of the state on the one hand and individuals on the other.” And the same holds for businesses, especially as the power of government regulatory agencies grows exponentially and leftist billionaires like the Steyer brothers increasingly exercise their own First Amendment rights.
There is no greater scourge that affects the proper functioning of any economic system than corruption. The effects of corruption also have legal ramifications, often undermining the rule of law. This monograph offers a theological and economic examination that puts into question many of the uncritically accepted assumptions held about corruption.