Does a corporation have religious freedom?

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Here we go again. Yesterday, November 26, 2013 theSupreme Court announced they would hear a case that would decide if corporations can have religious belief.

This same court has already disastrously decided that corporations are people, and now in their hands is the chance to decide if these corporations can hide behind religious “freedom”.

From Slate:

The court agreed to hear an appeal from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,which sided with Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based chain of craft stores owned by a Christian family who claimed that the birth-control mandate violated their company’s religious freedom. The court also agreed to hear an appeal from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which went the opposite way, finding that Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a cabinet manufacturer, did not have the same religious conscience rights as an individual. The split between these two circuit courts and other appeals courts, plus almost 50 other cases in the pipeline, meant that the Supreme Court was almost forced to weigh in.

So Hobby Lobby brought this case forward when their owner refused to offer healthcare under the Affordable Care Act mandate that required women have access to birth control. Hobby Lobby claimed that it violated their religious beliefs.

How can this be? How can Hobby Lobby have a religious belief? Their owner and staff members of course can have any religious belief they see fit, however they are not allowed to use those beliefs to dictate what others can and cannot do with their own bodies. This clearly violates individual’s freedoms.

Written By: Dan Arel
continue to source article at examiner.com

34 COMMENTS

  1. A ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would be a disaster. I loathe slippery slope fallacious thinking as much as anyone here, but I cannot help but to speculate how far an unscrupulous corporation would take their newfound “religious freedom”. Suppose an employer decided that minimum wage laws conflicted with a biblical understanding of how to treat slaves? Or actively discriminate against homosexuals? Or ask someone’s religious views as part of an interview? Discipline or terminate based on an unwed pregnancy? Prohibit a menstruating woman from showing up to work because she is “unclean”? Dictate that employees may not wear mixed fabric garments?

    All of these scenarios conflict with current federal law, of course, but if Hobby Lobby is able to successfully slick in a “corporate values” exemption that allows then to save a buck, I predict that a several corporate entities will suddenly find Jesus.

  2. If they have religious freedom, then they have the freedoms to discriminate based on sex, colour, politics… the list goes on and on. Only religion seems to claim a priviledged exemption from the law, based on the belief of an imaginary leader. Maybe that leader should be required to testify and demonstrate its power in front of a court of law before it’s given any consideration of having STANDING.

  3. The importance of this case cannot be overemphasized. I bet that the SCOTUS does not want to take the case, but they know they can’t sidestep it; it has to be decided, and that is their job. Granting corporations the status of “persons” for the purpose of property ownership and control slipped down the slope to granting free speech rights to promote the political candidates who would support said property, aka, “Money is speech.” Now, the U.S. political system has been thrown even farther from the will of the people (those without money, anyway) by that slide, which may need a specific change to the Constitution to fix, so any further slip is of great concern.

    Fortunately, the theory that gives corporations the freedom of speech to look after their property does not directly transfer to religion. Whereas, Hobby Lobby (an amusing name to go down in judicial history, as it will either way) is going to try to use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to claim that the government has to let them have their religious freedom to abstain from providing birth control coverage in employee insurance, the Court has always held that this is limited, especially in actions that are not in church and that are required of the populous in general. I do expect a ruling against Hobby Lobby such that the Court does not recognize them as a “church” but rather as a business that sells to the public and employs people from the general population. There is a long history of requiring such businesses to grant employees their own religious freedom. Hobby Lobby could not have a policy of only employing people who don’t use birth control on religious basis, so there is really no justification of discriminating against employees who do by cutting them out of insurance coverage.

    Everyone who takes a guess at how the SCOTUS will rule always includes a “but I could be completely wrong” disclaimer, and I am no exception, so please take that stipulation as written.

    • In reply to #4 by Quine:

      The importance of this case cannot be overemphasized. I bet that the SCOTUS does not want to take the case, but they know they can’t sidestep it; it has to be decided, and that is their job. Granting corporations the status of “persons” for the purpose of property ownership and control slipped down…

      Let’s hope they shut it down with a unanimous verdict. Surely even the religious judges on the bench can’t see this as a good idea. It needs a unanimous verdict to show that this idea is soooo far beyond the pale that it shouldn’t even be considered. I would hope they could rule on this one in a short afternoon session!

      If it passes, it will, as someone else has stated, lead to many big unscrupulous corporations finding Jesus to give them an exemption from any law they don’t like.

  4. If I were an attorney arguing against these corporations I would have to cut to the chase – this is blatant gender discrimination. These corporations aren’t dredging up this corporate “personhood” and “religious freedom” bullshit to protest provision of insurance coverage for erectile dysfunction drugs or vasectomies. No, it’s only female healthcare that causes the screeches of outrage. One Repubican asshole claimed that the ACA was unfair because it would force “male employees to pay for mammograms” – as if female employees’ insurance rates don’t pay for prostate exams and ED drugs. I don’t care what kind of legalese these patriarchal poltroons try to frost this dog turd with – this is just religious, patriarchy-based misogyny, plain and simple. It’s been illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on gender, race, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, etc., for years. Hobby Lobby et al are just using this ACA flap to try to circumvent these decades-old labor laws.

  5. Quine- I wish I had a chirpy, cheerful font with which to say this court will decide, “Hey kids! Corporations are people too!”

    I’m afraid Citizens United left little doubt where they stand- and this court is more hung up on its own infallibility than the pope so no change of stripe this go-round.

    • In reply to #6 by rjohn19:

      Quine- I wish I had a chirpy, cheerful font with which to say this court will decide, “Hey kids! Corporations are people too!”

      I’m afraid Citizens United left little doubt where they stand-

      Stand on property rights, and anything attached thereto, yes, but religious rights, no. It is too bad no one bothered to correct Romney when he made his famous “Corporations are people” remark, because while having a legal fiction of personhood, it is restricted so that they are not “people.” If corporations were people, they could vote, and you could not own them under the 14th Amendment, which would defeat their entire reason to be. Corporations can’t get married (but can merge) and can neither adopt a child nor seek protection from self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment (no Miranda Rights). The Court did not give corporations rights to fund political actions because of any “personhood” conceit, but rather from the free speech rights of the actual people who own the corporation and speak through it.

      Some have tried to get religious rights made from property rights as in arguing that making corporations pay for the health insurance is an improper taking of the property of the owners of the corporation against those owner’s religious freedom. However, that was argued last year in the individual mandate case and the Court ruled against it 5-4, so there is not much chance they are going to reverse themselves next year to work a rights pass-through for corporations. Which gives me hope because along the same reasoning the Court can say that the corporations are not funding the health insurance, but rather, are being taxed and then the tax funds belonging to the Government (thanks to accounting fungibility) are being used to fund the insurance. Whatever religious objections someone (including actual people) has to what the Government does with their tax dollars, the Courts have long rejected. Again, there is no way to be sure. It is going to be considerable work for the Court as you can see by reading the injunction granted to Hobby Lobby by the 10th Court. The religious folks thought that was a big win, but I see it as a “punt” by the 10th knowing full well that the SCOTUS would have to take it up. Granting an injunction is not at the level of setting precedent in the interpretation of the Law. Many of us will be watching this closely.

  6. How can a ‘corporation’ hold a belief? I can see how an individual may hold a belief, either based on evidence or faith, but how can a corporation? If a corporation considered to be an entity with conciousness, in order to hold a belief, then a whole raft of other laws apply to it.

  7. Quine- To me the case you cited fell under the catagory of frivolous lawsuits. And still the vote that ought to have been unanimous was a squeaker at 5-4. I just don’t have the faith in the SCROTUMS you seem to have. The court is nearly as politicized as congress. I guess I’m just one of those pessimists who thinks our system is broken and there is no fix.

    I think our founders designed a system thinking the men who rose to the top would be better intended.

  8. Does a corporation have religious freedom? If it does then we know that it would use this so-called freedom to persecute everyone it does not agree with, which is what this freedom is actually all about.

  9. People (not churches, and certainly not businesses) have religious freedom, the right not to have someone else’s religion imposed on them.

    If businesses are granted the right to religious freedom then people will lose that right

  10. Corporations have every right, just as we have the right to not work for them and boycott their business. Don’t like the policies, don’t support them with labor or profit. Problem solved. P.S., screw Hobby Lobby.

    • In reply to #16 by Apexxxdisorder:

      Corporations have every right, just as we have the right to not work for them and boycott their business. Don’t like the policies, don’t support them with labor or profit. Problem solved. P.S., screw Hobby Lobby.

      I’m guessing you’re a libertarian…

      • In reply to #17 by Peter Grant:

        In reply to #16 by Apexxxdisorder:

        Corporations have every right, just as we have the right to not work for them and boycott their business. Don’t like the policies, don’t support them with labor or profit. Problem solved. P.S., screw Hobby Lobby.

        I’m guessing you’re a libertarian…

        I’m guessing I believe in freedom and rights. Libertarian? Not so much. Secular humanist is a label I would choose. My stance is everybody decides where they place their personal values. It is ones right to form a belief system, standards, cultures, based on their own valuation of reality. It is also my right to reject their beliefs and assertions. My caveat is don’t step on my side of the fence, I don’t step on yours. If everyone who has a problem with Hobby Lobby policies just doesn’t, ( as I said) support them they will no longer be in business.

        • In reply to #18 by Apexxxdisorder:

          Secular humanist is a label I would choose. My stance is everybody decides where they place their personal values. It is ones right to form a belief system, standards, cultures, based on their own valuation of reality. It is also my right to reject their beliefs and assertions. My caveat is don’t step on my side of the fence, I don’t step on yours. If everyone who has a problem with Hobby Lobby policies just doesn’t, ( as I said) support them they will no longer be in business.

          Humanist is also fraught with difficulties, most humans suck. Should humans be subject to large corporations simply because they are ignorant and unskilled?

          • In reply to #19 by Peter Grant:

            In reply to #18 by Apexxxdisorder:

            Staying on topic. I proposed a possible, and proven solution to the problem. Being rejected and ostracized from a community for beliefs not beneficial to the majority. What would you, or anyone else propose as a solution?

          • In reply to #22 by Apexxxdisorder:

            I proposed a possible, and proven solution to the problem.

            Proven where?

            Being rejected and ostracized from a community for beliefs not beneficial to the majority.

            Group selection is a myth!

    • In reply to #16 by Apexxxdisorder:

      Corporations have every right, just as we have the right to not work for them and boycott their business. Don’t like the policies, don’t support them with labor or profit. Problem solved.

      Damn straight. Those discriminated against should just walk on down the street and get a job elsewhere.

  11. Does it eat? does it shit? Does it require oxygen? If it doesn’t meet these basic criteria, then it is NOT a person. I can’t understand how this was not successfully defended.

  12. Corporations clearly aren’t people. However, they are owned and managed by people. Governments should be protecting these people’s rights just as much as anyone else’s. Like anyone else, corporate owners and managers (acting as owners’ agents) shouldn’t have to hide behind the guise of “religious freedom” when just plain “freedom” should suffice. Why do the religious get to keep more freedom than the rest of us? And why does anyone try to solve this inequity by promoting the elimination of the freedoms the religious are allowed to keep?

    • In reply to #25 by ekturner3:

      Corporations clearly aren’t people. However, they are owned and managed by people. Governments should be protecting these people’s rights just as much as anyone else’s. Like anyone else, corporate owners and managers (acting as owners’ agents) shouldn’t have to hide behind the guise of “religious…

      So are you saying that you think all corporations should have the rights that these guys want? That if they don’t want to offer some forms of healthcare (e.g., birth control) to their employees for any reason they should be able to do it?

      • In reply to #26 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #25 by ekturner3:

        So are you saying that you think all corporations should have the rights that these guys want? That if they don’t want to offer some forms of healthcare (e.g., birth control) to their employees for any reason they should be able to do it?

        Yes, and more than that. Employers shouldn’t have to relinquish their rights to associate with those of their (mutual) choosing simply due to the fact that they are employers.

        Employees can, rightly so, refuse the provision of certain services to an employer (corporation or otherwise). Why don’t employers get the same right? If an agreement cannot be reached, simply part ways.

    • In reply to #25 by ekturner3:

      corporate owners and managers (acting as owners’ agents) shouldn’t have to hide behind the guise of “religious freedom” when just plain “freedom” should suffice.

      It is indeed outrageous that employers have to resort to these kinds of subterfuge (curtailing universally provided health benefits, for example) to drive away the kind of folk they almost certainly do not wish to employ. In my day being discriminating was a virtue. It meant being more perceptive.

      • In reply to #27 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #25 by ekturner3:

        It is indeed outrageous that employers have to resort to these kinds of subterfuge (curtailing universally provided health benefits, for example) to drive away the kind of folk they almost certainly do not wish to employ. In my day being discriminating was a virtue. It meant being more perceptive.

        I agree (sort of). Regardless of motive (I tend to disagree with your implication, not that it’s relevant), if an employer doesn’t wish to employ a certain kind of folk, they should be allowed (barring an existing contract stating otherwise) to part ways with these employees as easily as one would an acquaintance with whom he doesn’t wish to associate. The employee has that right. Why not the employer?

    • In reply to #28 by Peter Grant:

      The point I think the libertarians are missing here is that it is in these corporations best interest to have a large, ignorant, unskilled workforce to exploit.

      I was looking for Chomsky talks on language and saw this short clip where he talks about the various definitions of Libertarianism. As usual I agree with him here, I consider myself a Libertarian in the true sense of the word but not the Ron Paul sense.

      Chomsky on real Libertarians vs. Ron Paul

  13. Was the company baptised (not its owners)? Does it (not its owners) go to heaven when it dies? Does it (again: not its owners) attend church services? Was it circumcised? Does it go for a hajj to Mecca?
    Frankly, I don’t understand how this can be a question…

  14. One thing that bothers me about the left in the US is how incredibly bad they are at organizing. Time and again people in the US vote against their interests because they have been brainwashed into thinking that the most sensible things like universal healthcare are bad for freedom. When you look at what some of the Tea Party people say (not talking about the leaders but the actual people) a lot of their complaints about what is happening to the US are legitimate and really could fit in with a left agenda if we were better at doing that kind of stuff (we do great drum circles though). A specific example is the supreme court ruling that said “corporations are people”. If the left was smart someone would start a movement for an amendment to the constitution that changed that and would try and get support from the Libertarians and Tea Party folks for it. I think it could work, no one who isn’t a CEO or a huge stock holder thinks that ruling makes sense and if it was framed correctly (e.g., it’s bad for our freedom, only God can make a person… yes I would stoop so low to get that law passed) I think it would have a real chance to pass and would show Americans that we can still work together.

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