Silence Inc. What side has corporate America taken in the Hobby Lobby challenge?

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This spring, the Supreme Court will decide—for the first time in our nation’s history—whether secular, for-profit corporations are entitled to invoke the constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion. The stakes are huge, as the justices will determine whether business corporations can claim a religious exemption from federal laws that protect the rights of their employees. You would think that corporations, which routinely jump in to protect their interests at the high court, would have weighed in on an issue of such significance. But not this time. Indeed thus far, the response of the business community has been near-total silence.

Last week, more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in the cases brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood—an arts-and-crafts chain and wood manufacturer, respectively—challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employer health plans cover the full range of Food and Drug Administration–approved contraceptives for their employees. The mountain of amicus briefs covered an incredible terrain of legal issues: the framers’ understanding of the free exercise right, the history of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence on corporate personhood, the court’s cases interpreting the Free Exercise Clause, and the history leading to the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Many briefs were filed on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, including important support offered from members of Congress, state governments, scholars, theologians, and a number of religious businesses, groups, and organizations. But almost none of those briefs came from secular businesses. Not one Fortune 500 company filed a brief in the case. Apart from a few isolated briefs from companies just like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the U.S. business community offered no support for the claim that secular, for-profit corporations are persons that can exercise religion.

Perhaps most significant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—by far the most powerful and successful voice on behalf of corporations before the Supreme Court—remained on the sidelines in the case as well. The chamber touts itself as the world’s largest business federation. It regularly participates in major Supreme Court litigation, and its views often carry significant weight with the conservative justices on the Roberts Court. In fact, it’s been widely reported that since Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito joined the court, the chamber has had a success rate of more than 70 percent. Yet here, the chamber decided not to support the claim that secular businesses can exercise religion. This stands in sharp contrast to Citizens United, when the chamber urged the court to grant corporations the right to spend unlimited money on elections. The chamber had a lot to say about corporate personhood when it came to free speech.

Just like the chamber, the National Federation of Independent Business—a group thatprides itself on being “the voice for small businesses in the nation’s courts”—also chose not to participate in the Hobby Lobby appeal. NFIB, of course, was one of the named plaintiffs in the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act that the Supreme Court rejected two years ago. In that case, the plaintiffs were ably represented by conservative superstars Michael Carvin and Georgetown Law professor Randy Barnett. Since then, NFIB has participated as a friend of the court in many other important Supreme Court cases concerning government regulation of corporations, including cases concerning the First Amendment rights of corporations. Yet, like the chamber, NFIB took a pass on Hobby Lobby’s big challenge to the part of Obamacare that helps ensure that women can protect their health and control their reproductive lives.

Written By: David H. Gans
continue to source article at slate.com

9 COMMENTS

  1. It is hard to imagine how Hobby Lobby could win. Surely the corporations claim to religious freedom directly interferes with their employees religious freedom.

    These guys were in the news last year for telling a Jewish person that they didn’t stock jewish stuff nor did they intend to.

    I suspect their christian filter will make it all but impossible for a non-christian to get a job anyway so it would take an undercover theist to expose them.

    That no other corporations have stood up to be counted shouldn’t be a surprise, any chance to gain more power over employees is not usually objected to even if deeply christian, sorry I meant unethical.

    That no religious organisations have stood up to be counted is also not a surprise but it is disappointing they don’t feel they can be ethical.

  2. It’s impossible to imagine how this would work. First of all, companies have corporate personhood to separate them from the people working in it, so that the people do not carry the burden of the company’s failures (as the article also points out). That should be a clue for the courts; corporations are separate from their employees including their managers and owners. Therefore whatever beliefs the owners have – even though they represent the company when making decisions for it – should have nothing to do with the company.

    And secondly, when making decisions one has to consider the other side of the argument. What happens if corporations can exercise religions? Even if we for argument’s sake entertain the possibility of giving corporations the right to have religious beliefs (wow, that sounds crazy when you actually write it down), it leads to a whole set of massive problems. Whose religion is chosen? If the chosen religion is that of the owners, does the religion change every time the owners change? These and many more make it impossible to work in practice.

  3. It’s impossible to imagine how this would work. First of all, companies have corporate personhood to separate them from the people working in it, so that the people do not carry the burden of the company’s failures (as the article also points out). That should be a clue for the courts; corporations are separate from their employees including their managers and owners. Therefore whatever beliefs the owners have – even though they represent the company when making decisions for it – should have nothing to do with the company.

    And secondly, when making decisions one has to consider the other side of the argument. What happens if corporations can exercise religions? Even if we for argument’s sake entertain the possibility of giving corporations the right to have religious beliefs (wow, that sounds crazy when you actually write it down), it leads to a whole set of massive problems. Whose religion is chosen? If the chosen religion is that of the owners, does the religion change every time the owners change? These and many more make it impossible to work in practice.

  4. I worked at a tiny rural hospital years and years ago. There was a muslim ER doc who had to pray to mecca however many times a day. Screw you if you happened to need emergency care while this doc was praying (he was the only doc on duty). Chapped my hide to no end.

    We have a very vocal repub where I work now and he said Hobby Lobby should close if they don’t get their way. Riiiiight….that’ll fix the problem.

  5. USA today can’t be described in other ways than a country filled with religious bigotry, hatred and just plain ignorance. I’m sure there are many rational and sensible people hiding there behind the facade of stupidity, but they are hard to see from where I’m sitting. The scientific ignorance in USA seems completely unreal to me. Especially since USA is the home to many of the best universities and research facilities in the world. But, the religious bigotry is even more appalling. The fact that individual states can make discriminatory laws that reminds me of the Jim Crow days just makes me speechless. New bills passed in Ohio and Kansas pretty much make these states apartheid regimes where homosexuals and other dissidents are second class citizens. At the same time USA dare to criticize Putin and Russia for being homophobic. Just when I thought things could not get any more extreme or absurd I’m taken by surprise! What on earth is happening in USA?

    • In reply to #7 by Nunbeliever:

      bills passed in [ ] Kansas

      As of now, the bill has only passed in the House – not expected to pass in the Senate.

      Folks realized right quick that the bill went way past just protecting mom & pop business religious faith. That screeching sound you hear are the breaks being applied in Topeka.

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