America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Letter to Judge Scalia
By Peter Conroy
Justice Antonin Scalia
Dear Justice Scalia,
I am writing you because of a disturbing experience I had last week. You are uniquely qualified to appreciate my dilemma and to give me advice about it.
Last week I brought my daughter Sara Lee to my parish church so she could make her first Holy Communion. As a Catholic, you know how significant an event that is in any family’s spiritual life. When my parish priest asked to meet Sara Lee, I presented him with the articles of incorporation along with other pertinent legal documents as well as my stock shares authenticating my relationship to her. The priest was outraged. He accused me of mocking the sacraments of Holy Mother Church! I assured him that no, I was simply following up on your decision in Citizens United that conferred personhood and human status upon what had been previously understood universally as a lifeless and soulless legal fiction, the business corporation.
My priest was indignant. “There is absolutely nothing” and he emphasized that absolutely, “nothing in Natural Law or in Canon Law that could sustain such idiocy!” These were indeed strong words, and I was quite taken aback by his vehemence. “Whoever makes such a stupid judgment must be a fool, a heretic, or a demented person,” he yelled at me. I’m sorry to repeat such nasty remarks, but I want you to know everything that transpired because I’m sure you are a faithful Catholic and would not knowingly contravene Church dogma.
“Do you think,” he continued in a loud voice, “that Jesus Christ suffered on the cross and died for corporations? Ludicrous! Anathema!” Oh there was venom in his voice. “Jesus came unto the world to save and redeem real people, human beings with immortal souls. Any extension of the definition of persons with souls to include inanimate corporations is a heretical denial of His incarnation and His sacrifice! It’s blasphemy!” Well, I did not know how to respond.
Surely he is right. What do those phrases “strict construction” and “original intent” mean? Everyone knows that the Constitution never mentions corporations. The Founding Fathers would never be so foolish as to confuse a mechanical entity with a human soul. So, how then could you declare that inanimate things are human? It seems so ridiculous and yet you are so smart.
I also have another conundrum. Sara Lee is fast approaching the legal age for marriage and I am quite unsettled by that. I mean, you know, all of us right-thinking persons are opposed to same-sex marriage. I am worried about same-sex mergers. How can I be sure that Sara Lee merges with the right sort of “person” as you call them? John Deere of course would be acceptable, or Walt Disney, but he is very old and dead too I think. Sam Sung seems like quite nice young man. Jewish and nice. Bud Weiser would be ok too, but I am leery of anyone connected to alcohol. Any one of those distinguished military men would be a good catch: General Electric, General Motors, General Mills.
But what about Sally Mae, Fanny Mae, or Freddie Mac? Or those others: Kimberly Clark, Jenny Craig, Honey Well, Este Lauder, Tiffany’s, Victoria’s Secret, and May Tag? They come from outstanding families, I’m sure, but that … same sex thing … It would be horrible! I shudder even to think about it.
How do you determine the sex of a corporation-person? Every person has to have a gender, right? So how do we know which one it is? What about those corporations with funny names that don’t tell you right off boy or girl. Like Exxon or Xerox. Some corporation-persons are obviously men, I mean, Cannon and A.B. Dick. But I would be really upset by any merger with those Latina girls: Motor Ola, I Kea, Min Alta, Hon Da. And what about those foreign corporations? By the way, are they illegals? You say they are persons in America, but what are they back in their home country? Take Louis Vuitton, or Deloite and Touche. They sound so, so … French -- ugh-- and there might be two of them, like Johnson and Johnson! … and that would mean … oh no! I can’t even imagine it! Same sex mergers are horrible to contemplate but kinky ones are really intolerable! What would those 3Ms do to my sweet Sara Lee? Or the Lehman Brothers, if they’re still around. And Howie Johnson boasting about his 29 flavors? What would they be? Or Heinz with his 57 varieties? Business orgies in the investment portfolio! Don’t you see what a terrible cat you have let out of the bag? And speaking of cats, don’t even think about those abominations, mergers with animals like Caterpillar or Apple. Do you know what squiggly, wormy things they find in apples?
I apologize for having taken so much of your valuable time. But you do understand what a quandary I am in, and it is all your fault. I don’t know what to do. Maybe you could decide some case where a corporation would have to go to its shareholders before acting like a person. The CEOs are always saying they do everything for their shareholders and their bottom lines. Are we shareholders just bottom lines, or are bottom lines people too? I think shareholders are people, but you might disagree. Maybe these corporations could ask us shareholders what sort of person they should try to be.
I am so confused. Please show me more of your incisive intelligence.
PS: My neighbor is a warm and generous person but she is alas! a liberal. When I told her of my predicament, she said: A corporation can’t be a person until the state of Texas executes one of them. What could she mean by that? Persons, of course, should be executed whenever they commit a crime. When corporations commit crimes, however, they deserve our forgiveness (unlike those undocumented workers who don’t deserve amnesty) and they should get tax loopholes and other financial give-aways from the government (unlike minorities who are always lobbying the nanny state for more).
I am desperate to hear what you have to say about all this. Your common sense is most refreshing in this world of confusion and ideological blindness.
PPS: On 20 August 2012, according to the news, you declared that the death penalty is not “cruel and unusual punishment” forbidden by the Constitution because Christians don’t mind dying, they actually should like it. Death just begins their happiness and eternal life. I suppose then that you will now support abortion since it returns fetuses to heaven before they become human beings and commit sins and suffer by living in this vale of tears. My neighbor told me that you are nominating the Roman Emperor Nero for sainthood since he helped so many early Christians go to heaven quickly by throwing them to the lions. Are you? That would be incredible and awesome.