The Community Rights movement seeks to protect the right of communities to make local decisions, and people’s rights at the community level. It is a movement that is spreading nation-wide as one community after another confronts situations in which it has to defend itself from unwanted action by corporations claiming the right to do business in them against the will of the local population, based on laws dictated at the federal and state levels. Since corporations are granted the constitutional rights of persons, and are additionally protected by federal contract and commerce laws and by state preemption laws, their claimed rights are guaranteed more securely than the rights of common people. Today corporations establish themselves forcefully in communities to frack, extract water, extract oil, dump sewage sludge, install factory farms, spray pesticides, all against the wishes of the community in which they operate, in spite of causing severe environmental damage to it.
The Community Rights movement seeks to empower communities to take their destinies into their own hands by passing ordinances that prohibit the harms which corporations are poised to inflict on them. In the legal battles that ensue, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), founded by attorney Thomas Linsey, provides legal support to the community in question. 160 communities in 8 States nationwide have so far passed such ordinances, thus freeing themselves from the corporate-driven harms listed above. In Oregon, there are at this point 9 counties with Community Rights groups working on these local ordinances, grouped together in the Oregon Community Rights Network (OCRN), in which people from the various groups are cooperating on crafting an amendment to the Oregon Constitution that would establish the fundamental rights of natural persons, their communities and nature, giving them the power to enact local laws that protect health, safety, and welfare. – Maria Kraus