Do Corporations Have a Right to Religious Expression?

Remember back in 2010 when the Supreme Court declared that corporations had free speech, just like real people?  As a reminder, in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, SCOTUS declared political spending a form of protected speech and, therefore, corporations could not be prohibited from exercising their first amendment right. In the 2012 election, the “people” let their voices be heard to the tune of more than $3 billion dollars.

Now corporations want another first amendment right afforded to humans – free exercise of religion.

In May of this year, the Green family of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit in federal court, stating their religious rights were being violated due to the mandate in the Affordable Care Act requiring all employers with 50 or more employees to provide insurance coverage that includes birth control.

I should mention that by the Green family, I mean their corporation, Hobby Lobby, Inc.

The ACA requires coverage of more than 20 forms of birth control. Hobby Lobby (and their affiliated company, Madera, Inc.) is only against those that cause “the death of an embryo.”

I guess it is not surprising that a corporation does not know how birth control, or science, works.

The crux of their argument is that because the private owners of a for-profit corporation with 500 stores in 41 states and more than 13,000 full time employees are devout Christians, they shouldn’t be forced to go against their ill-informed beliefs about birth control and be allowed to deny their employees their federally protected right to coverage.

In June, a federal appeals court agreed.

The Denver based Tenth Circuit’s 5-3 ruling stated that the corporations “absorbed” the religious convictions of its owners and the businesses are run accordingly. This gives the corporations protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which states that “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

Meaning that when the law applies to everybody — regardless of religious affiliation (or none) — if it burdens a person’s exercise of religion, then it shouldn’t apply to them.

So by osmosis, corporations have the right to exercise their religion.

The question is, how?  Are corporations baptized or take communion? How do they fit in those pews?

It should be noted that the judges specifically refer to SCOTUS’ 2010 ruling in Citizens United concluding, “We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression.”  The judges call it another form of evangelism.

Last month, the Philadelphia based Third Circuit ruled that the family-owned corporation Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. in Pennsylvania does not have the right to exercise religion, even if its owners are devout. “We do not see how a for-profit, ‘artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law,’ that was created to make money could exercise such an inherently ‘human’ right.”

In other words, corporations are not people. Halleluiah!

The courts are now evenly split on whether or not for-profit corporations can spread the gospel via denying their employees a basic health care need.

There are several other cases wending their way through the courts all over the country, with additional rulings expected in September and October. A judge in the Hobby Lobby case granted an injunction against enforcementof the birth control mandate, setting up a most certain appeal by the government.

There is a good chance the Supreme Court will hear one or more of these cases in the next term.

That’s worked out well before – for corporations.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Alberto Gtz.
Alberto G.4 years ago

Two secret new global pacts -- the TPP and TTIP -- could massively increase the power of corporations to sue our governments
Check this:

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Corporations are run by people, they should be allowed to stand by their convictions.

Susan T.
Susan T4 years ago

If corporations want to continue to receive special treatment under tax laws and other laws (bankruptcy, etc etc) then it is ridiculous to claim that corporations have the same rights afforded to individuals under the Constitution. A corporation is a government construct with special privileges created (theoretically) to benefit society as a whole. You can't be both a corporation and a person. Duh.

Rehana V.
Rehana V4 years ago

Religion is a private matter between an individual & his Creator The religious beliefs of people running corporations should in no way influence the beliefs of their employees. The issue of birth control is highly debateable bcos some religions are against it. There is nothing in the world that cannot be resolved in an amicable way or at least we can try.

Rosemary G.
Rosemary G4 years ago

That is a load of poppy cock and another way to discriminate against women in a so-called legal way because Viagra and Cialis is covered...Helloooooooooooooooooo wake up fellow Americans, corporations are not People!

Ken W.
Ken W4 years ago

In the near future organized religion will come to and end as people become more intelligent ----- science, education and truth will out way superstition -----

Mary Leon
Mary A Leon4 years ago

The only 'religion' big corporations believe in and worship is the religion of making as much MONEY as they can by paying their workers starvation wages and giving their CEOs 'golden parachutes'. Amen.

janice b.
jan b4 years ago

People still have a choice whether to get birth control or not even if it's offered through insurance.
OH--I believe the ones who like cheap labor would LOVE to overpopulate this country with it. We're nearly there now....adding to our population without the jobs to sustain it.

Jayna Sheats
Jayna Sheats4 years ago

The first amendment guarantees that "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;..."

Obviously this has nothing to do with money, and the Citizens United decision was as blatant an exercise in "activist judiciary" as one will ever see (I hope anyway). It doesn't say anything about spending; only that the government cannot abridge the right to speak. Of course, only people can speak (except for a few carefully tutored chimpanzees...). That would include CEOs and company spokespeople, but a company cannot speak; this is an objective observation.

Similarly, people exercise religion; companies do not. The people at Hobby Lobby are free to have whatever religion they want, and to express it (even as the Westboro Baptist Church has such freedom). Exercising religion is not what one is doing when one is fulfilling orders from random consumers for hobby materials.

The fourteenth amendment guarantees everyone equal rights under the laws. So if the laws allow working on Saturday, then no one is able to object to being required (for a specific position) to work on the Sabbath, regardless of religion. Similarly, if the laws provide for a certain means of providing universal heath care, then everyone is protected by these laws, and everyone may have some obligations under them.

What if a religion required infant sacrifice? Would people be protec