Cleveland Plain Dealer / April 1, 2014
The claim last week before the U.S. Supreme Court that a for-profit arts and craft corporation, Hobby Lobby, possesses religious beliefs is the latest absurdity of the notion that corporations are “persons” with inalienable constitutional rights.
Hobby Lobby’s owners certainly have a right to religious freedom under the First Amendment, but their corporation does not. As a creation of the state, for-profit corporations are legally separate from their owners.
While certain laws shield religious groups from complying with particular federal statutes, Hobby Lobby is not a religious group or connected to one. The religious beliefs of their owners opposing the Affordable Care Act provision providing contraceptives to women are not applicable.
A Supreme Court ruling favorable to Hobby Lobby later this year would not only be an assault on common sense as it would be an admission that artificial legal entities are spiritual. It would also no doubt be an assault on a variety of democratically enacted health, safety and civil rights laws protecting people and communities if such laws violated a corporation’s “religion.”
The bizarre time we live in where money equals speech and corporations are persons would become all the more preposterous if the Supremes conclude that corporations can practice religion.
Director, Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee