Political Education

Are Corporations People?

Oral arguments are being heard today in the Supreme Court in the case  Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius.  This case boils down to whether or not a company can claim religious objection–especially a company that isn’t religiously affiliated–to the Affordable Healthcare Act’s mandate for providing contraceptive care. The question that seems most important to me is this: are corporations people? The Court may or may not answer this. Do corporations receive the same constitutional rights that people do? There is legal president for this. The Supreme Court has stated that the 14th amendment applies to corporations on multiple occasions, Trustees of Darthmouth College v. Woodward (1819) and Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886) to give some early examples.  These cases dealt mostly with the ability for corporations to make and enforce contracts, but the Supreme Court clearly applied the 14th amendment to these cases, and this belief has been reaffirmed many time since.  Before 2010 however corporations have not been able to exercise rights that would be given to a group.  In 2010 in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the same rights as individuals when it comes to campaign spending, sighting freedom of speech.  This is the first time that corporations have been given one of the basic individual liberties that we as Americans hold so dear.

So, if they are legally considered a person then yes they “the company” have the right to be religious.  If the Supreme Court can give a corporation freedom of speech than why not give it freedom of religion?  This idea of “corporate personhood” has been, in my opinion very strange.  A corporation doesn’t have 5th amendment rights, United States v. Sourapas and Crest Beverage Company, but they have 1st amendment rights?

I have one major problem with corporations being able to be considered religious or not, except for those specifically connected with a church.  One being a person’s religious beliefs can change over time, there is nothing wrong with that.  Many people find or loose “God” in their life over and over again.  America is a country where that is ok for an individual to do.  But a corporation should be stable.  If a man chooses to work for, let’s say Hobby Lobby, because it is a Christian company and the CEO looses his religion, does that mean that the company than looses all of its benefits of being a “religious company?”  Religious beliefs are deeply personal, and that is ok, but your job isn’t, and your company isn’t.  I think that one should be allowed to have any religion they want, and be able to wane in their religion as he or she sees fit, but that shouldn’t affect other people.  Your religious beliefs shouldn’t affect me.  When I look for a job I shouldn’t have to look at the religious preferences of the CEO, or should I?

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