The National Catholic Review

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Declaration of Independence

In the last days of its recent session, the Supreme Court of the United States, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), ruled in the matter of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores that “closely held corporations”—like Hobby Lobby and the other plaintiffs—possessed rights, by virtue of their owners, that prevented the government from imposing upon them a requirement that “substantially burdens their exercise of religion.” Juxtaposed to the recent debates about the court’s decision in Citizens United, which seemed to many to grant corporations rights to freedom of speech, this latest decision causes some concern among many people who see rights as the unique purview of natural persons.

Even if one opposes the contraceptive methods which are the source of the Hobby Lobby case—believing they are not contraceptive at all but the cause of early term abortion—one may well question the wisdom of attributing to corporations a right to the free exercise of religion. Corporations, which cannot bear the fundamental burdens and responsibilities of citizens, are legal fictions created to protect individuals from liability and risk, so as to encourage investment and economic development. So it is that a corporation such as Hobby Lobby, through its board or other governing structure, determines investments, pays its employees, contributes to their health care, etc., while the owners are shielded from personal liability in the functioning of the corporation. What “rights” such entities have are determined by the legislature, and, historically, were not seen as intrinsic. In attaching the rights of the owners, as individuals, to the corporation, as a legal entity, many wonder if we are not on the way to giving to those who own corporations a double-dose of rights, and thereby placing their rights over and above the rights of employees and ordinary citizens. Such actions seem to many to betray a misconception about the nature and source of our rights; which, as Americans, we believe emerge from nature, and which, as Christians, we believe are rooted in our divine communion with God.

To see better the debate on corporate rights, we should examine the notion of rights themselves. For some, rights are simply legal protections, granted by naturally free individuals for the purpose of securing one’s own self-interest. John Locke, in whose theories many see the origin of the American view on rights, believed that, in the state of nature, individuals were all at war with one another; and each gave up some of his or her natural liberty in order to maintain adequate security. Thus, certain rights are “unalienable” not because they are intrinsic to human beings, but because they are necessary conditions for people to pursue their personal interests: e.g., we both have a right to life, because if we are trying to kill each other, we can’t do what we want; we both have a right to liberty, because I don’t want you telling me what to do, so I agree not to tell you what to do; we have a right to pursue happiness, because it’s in our mutual interest to protect each other in doing so. And while governments are instituted to maintain this fundamental balance between naturally warring parties, the essentially contractual nature of rights does not end with government. Thus, I support a legal structure for the “right” to free speech because it is in my best interest, in the long run: either because I might have a minority opinion at some point, or because I can profit from the interaction that produces better solutions to society’s problems. But, I may give up this right (for myself or others) if I judge security to be more important than free speech. In such a situation, rights are not inherent in the individual, but are granted—e.g., by the majority (when all are equal), or by the ruling class (when they are not)—because it seems prudent for the parties. All rights are thus contingent on the perceived needs of the group.

This, of course, radically oversimplifies a complex group of theories; but it also suggests why the United States has been better at securing “negative rights” (the right not to be hindered in something, e.g., ownership of guns) than it has been in providing “positive rights” (the right to have something, e.g., health care). Further, it illustrates why many traditional conservatives or libertarians worry about granting the rights of citizens to corporate structures, since it means that the owners are somehow given disproportionate power, and the rights of those with wealth supersede the rights of those without.

For Catholics, however, whose grounding of human rights is quite different than it is for libertarians such as Locke, there is an even more profound objection to the notion of corporations having rights.

In the tradition of the church, rights are not the product of a contract between naturally warring parties. Rather, human beings have a purpose, a reason-for-being defined by God, a telos (to use Aristotle’s term). This spark of God given in our creation, draws us forward, and when we are discerning well, moves us to exercise virtues that are universal—virtues such as courage and friendship, generosity and compassion, loyalty and trust, humility and magnanimity—which form, within a community, the essence of true human happiness. In such a model, fundamental rights are not granted by the state nor by the majority, but by God, who has made us to shine with the Divine image and likeness by becoming what we can be—by living towards our telos, insofar as our human powers and situation allow us. Human beings have a right to pursue the good life of communion and justice; indeed, we have a duty to do so.

Called, in the nature given us by God, to be good and to do good in the world, we, thus, have the inherent right to that which can reasonably be provided to help us fulfill our call. For this very reason, Catholicism has long supported both negative rights, such as personal liberty, and positive rights, such as basic health care, for all people of the earth. The question, for Catholics, is not if people have these rights, but how best to secure them.

In this view, organizations—governments, corporations, etc.—exist as means to the end of human flourishing, without intrinsic value. To ascribe to a corporation the basic rights of a human being, therefore, is not just mistake, but a type of idolatry: putting a fiction of our own making on an equal status with a human being whose end is ordered by God; and then giving that fictional entity the authority to make moral decisions on behalf of natural persons. Though certainly not the intent of the Court, we do well to ask ourselves if the ultimate effect of decisions such as Hobby Lobby and Citizens United is to do more than grant disproportionate rights to the owners of corporations, but also to eradicate the distinction which raises the human person above a merely legal creation.

This past weekend, we celebrated the beginning of that great experiment in liberty known as the United States of America. As Catholics and citizens, we should pray with gratitude for all that has been done to allow “the pursuit of happiness” through this nation—and dedicate ourselves to all that has yet to be accomplished. Understanding our rights, and understanding how best to secure them for all is part of our duty, part of our call, part of our mission in this nation, and in this church. 

John D. Whitney, S.J., is pastor of St. Joseph Church in Seattle and a former provincial superior of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus.

Comments

Anne Danielson | 7/16/2014 - 4:12pm

When the Obama Administration argued in Hosanna-Tabor that Cheryl Perich was not a minister and therefore the ministerial exception did not apply, rather than argue that Cheryl Perich was a person of Faith who the Church had selected to minister to the students of Hosanna-Tabor, who had been unjustly let go due to a disability, it was clear that the Obama Administration had changed the nature of the debate in an attempt to redefine Religious Liberty by limiting the number of people who qualify as “ministers”, and are thus , according to the Obama Administration, entitled to have their Religious Liberty secured and protected. Having failed at redefining Religious Liberty through The Hosanna-Tabor Case, the Obama Administration is attempting, through the contraception mandate that was added after the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, to redefine Religious Liberty through an Administration Agency. Not only does an Administrative Agency not have the authority to determine who is and is not religious enough to have their Right to Religious Liberty secured and protected, but this Administrative Agency has placed an obscene fine of 36,500 per employee for providing Health Insurance that does not include contraception coverage, when the fine for failing to provide Health Insurance is only 2,000 dollars per employee, clearly a violation of the principle of proportionality, in an attempt to "influence the recipient", a violation The Eighth Amendment as well as The First.

Michael Kelly | 7/15/2014 - 8:57am

See: “Idolatry of the Corporate Form?: A Response to Rev. John Whitney, S.J.” by John Breen

http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2014/07/idolatry-of-the... :

“It used to be the case that members of the Society of Jesus could be expected to offer their opinions about the issues of the day in the pages of America Magazine in a thoughtful and restrained manner in accord with their apostolic purpose: to strive for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine—all done to serve the Lord under the Roman Pontiff. Not so in the age of the blogger/priest/activist as evidenced by a recent post at the America website by John D. Whitney, S.J. (here) criticizing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. From what I can tell, Fr. Whitney is neither a lawyer nor a political scientist. (Certainly his comments on Hobby Lobby do not reflect the thoughtfulness that ought to come with this kind of professional training). Of course, one does not need to possess these kinds of formal credentials in order to comment on a Supreme Court opinion, but to do so intelligently one’s work must be invested with the rigor that the subject demands. When, in addition, one is also a member of the Society of Jesus, this responsibility is intensified by the objective of serving the Church consistent with the purpose of the Society.
“Sadly, these qualities are absent from Fr. Whitney’s remarks, and these absences lead him to offer a conclusion that can aptly be described as over-the-top. …”

Anne Danielson | 7/15/2014 - 12:49pm

Michael, Thank you for these words of wisdom that help illuminate the truth. At the end of the Day, who can deny the relationship between condoning the contraception mentality, the denial of the personhood of the son or daughter residing in their mother's womb, and the desire to reorder man as an object of sexual desire/orientation? At this hour it is late, but not too late to give God The Glory that is due. We have been "ransomed for a cost", Blessed Mother, hear our Prayers, and untie these knots from the beginning.

Anne Danielson | 7/15/2014 - 8:53am

To recognize that God Has endowed us with our inherent unalienable Rights, is to recognize that the purpose of these unalienable Rights is what God intended. Who then can argue against any person or group of persons, who desire to run their company according to our founding Judeo-Christian principles, unless that person desires that we no longer honor these founding Judeo-Christian principles from the start. How ironic that contraception is the means that is being used to compromise our inherent Right to Religious Liberty; that which has led to the sexual objectification of the human person, cannot also be that which can set us free. Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self-gratification, Love desires only the good of oneself and the other. It is often through trial and error that we recognize the truth.

Vincent Gaitley | 7/11/2014 - 6:50pm

And just for fun I mention that the Church in its Vatican City has gone beyond the protections of incorporation to claim statehood meaning it is a sovereign entity not subject to any other nation or national law, and barely subject to international conventions. This is the cleverest bit of corporate self-definition on Earth. Corporations are accountable in law to all, and always to their shareholders. But not States, they vary from the democratic to the despotic, no matter how benign or malign.

Vincent Gaitley | 7/11/2014 - 6:35pm

You must be kidding Fr Whitney. What is the Church but a corporate body with rights and authorities and duties and responsibilities? And the ahem, the Company of Jesus--the Society of Jesus? Corporate bodies whose end is ordered by God? Could Congress pass a law requiring America to publish pornography? If not, why not? And could Congress require as a safe alternative to eating red meat that Jews and Muslims eat pork? Corporations have the rights of a human being because they are collections of human beings acting together. A Corporation may suffer criminal punishment and other negative consequences for bad behavior, too. As a First Amendment right, the New York Times successfully defended itself in the Sullivan case claiming that it had as a corporation the right to libel or slander a public person as long as malice or reckless indifference was absent. That is free speech that liberals love. Owning guns isn't a negative right either, it's positive law set out in writing in the US Constitution, but not your example of health care. Is the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus incorporated? I bet it is, even if it is as a non-profit corporation. It owns property, I'm sure. So, why? I'm also sure the Province has defended itself in court utilizing every aspect of the law in its favor. Good. That's all Hobby Lobby wanted, too.

Joseph McGuire | 7/10/2014 - 3:41pm

Thank you, Father Whitney, for a most insightful essay. Assigning to corporations the rights of actual persons--meaning living and breathing human beings--really is a form of idolatry. While the Hobby Lobby decision may have gladdened the hearts of the small handful of Catholics who have followed the Church's condemnation of birth control, it opens--or actually widens--the potential dangers of corporations to our democracy. We have already seen the how giving them First Amendment rights freeing them from limits on political contributions has profoundly distorted our elections--unless one happens to agree with the political views of the 0.5 to 1 percent. But according them--or at least the 1-5 shareholders of closely held corporations--religious rights effectively doubles the rights of those shareholders. And it enables them to use their religious freedom not as a shield but as a cudgel--to force their personal religious views on their employees. And what is a policy that holds that employees (or those applying for work) who aren't happy with the religious dictates of the boss are free to look for other work in an economy with continued high unemployment but a de facto religious test? That is hardly very Christian, even if the bosses think of themselves as devout Christians. Of course it is hard to believe that the Supreme Court intends to limit the corporate cudgel to birth control. I have to wonder what's next. Should the devout Christians who own closely held corporations be free to close the employment door to, say, blacks, Jews, Muslims, gays or even single moms?

A note to many others who have posted comments about a corporation as a legal fiction: It doesn't mean they don't exist and there is no denigration involved. This legal fiction was created long ago to enable individuals to take business and commercial risks without personal liability for the debts of the organization--of course in the absence of fraud and the like. It also means that they are granted enough attributes of a person so that they may own, buy and sell property, sue and be sued and pay taxes on their profits. And of course they may be organized as not-for-profit corporations with similar benefits. By contrast individual proprietors and members of partnerships remain personally liable for the debts and obligations of their businesses. That, in a nutshell, is the meaning of the legal fiction: We know that corporations aren't people at all but we treat them as if they were for certain limited purposes.

Joshua DeCuir | 7/10/2014 - 5:02pm

The opinion of the Court explicitly says that RFRA claims cannot be entertained to defeat anti-discriminatory policies on the basis of gender, sex, ethnicity or race, forestalling your claim that somehow this opens the pandora's box to a de facto Jim Crow.

Your claims that somehow this is an "imposition" of Hobby Lobby's religious views on its employees, & is a de facto "religious test" are also not supported by the facts of the case. First, as Mr. O'Leary notes, Hobby Lobby's health plans have actually provided coverage for most forms of basic contraception; the objection from Hobby Lobby only focused on the mandate's expansion to require coverage of products many consider to be abortifacents (such as ella). Furthermore, Hobby Lobby is not making absention from using these products a condition of employment at Hobby Lobby; they are not requiring employees to sign affidavits attesting the don't use them, they are not firiing employees that they (somehow) discover they are using them. Finally, certain constitutional rights are necessarily curtailed in employment: for example, the right to privacy is lessened, freedome of expression is lessened. So the objection that the employee's right is "lost" seems overblown; of course, nothing restricts the employee from obtaining these products for him or herself. The question is whether this was the "least substantial means" of achieving what the Court says is a compelling interest.

Finally, when you assert that we have already seen the "profoundly distorted" effects of the Citizens United decision on our elections, are you referring to the re-election of Pres. Obama by a large majority (using, of course, contra his earlier promises, millions in dollars from Companies)? Or perhaps your referring to the Democratic majority in the Senate?

Tim O'Leary | 7/10/2014 - 4:09pm

Joseph - you may have forgotten that the Hobby Lobby owners are not Catholics but Evangelicals. And their concern was abortifacients and not contraceptives, So the "small handful of Catholics" might translate into the many millions of pro-life Americans that prefer not to pay to have other peoples' children receive capital punishment for the crime of being unwanted.

As to Corporations, is it your contention that a business that closes its doors on Sundays is violating a potential worker's right to work on Sunday? If a corporation banned smoking or carrying firearms within its business in times and places where this was legal, that they would be interfering with their workers' rights. Are you really thinking that a corporation cannot have a moral code in its policies that it binds its employees to? Or is it only wrong if there is a religious source to the moral code? If the executive part of government invents a new right, without a new law describing that right, is that still legitimate?

If this were about moral objection other than contraception, I imagine most contracepting Catholics would readily notice the infringement. But, I think the contraceptive mentality has obscured the very idea of freedom (as well as statistics). It is never freedom to demand that others pay for your immoral choices.

Tim O'Leary | 7/10/2014 - 12:53pm

To describe a corporation as a legal fiction denigrates and distorts it. One could say the same about a nation state or a church. It hardly captures the full meaning of the organization. A corporation is an organization established with certain rules and regulations and protections to permit people to pursue their vocation in the world of business. So, businesses, hospitals, schools, newspapers, unions, orphanages, charitable organizations, and churches can be corporations. People should not lose their fundamental human rights just because they wish to express their organization's work through incorporation. It is part of the right to freely associate. As pointed out below, is the incorporated journal America really so detached from the Jesuits that the entity has no free expression rights, or protections as a Catholic organization?

More of a legal fiction is the contraceptive mandate, since it was not voted into law by Congress but created by the Obama administration after the AHA was voted upon. Likewise, the so-called accommodation is an affront to basic human rights.

In an excellent piece in the WSJ (http://online.wsj.com/articles/best-of-the-web-today-without-reason-or-e...) an analogy used by Judge Richard Posner in the Notre Dame defense is described. To paraphrase: A Quaker who considers pacifism a tenet of his religion tells the selective service officer he is a conscientious objector. The officer accepts the sincerity of his refusal to bear arms and excuses him, but only if the Quaker signs a form declaring his religious objection and also directing the officer to draft someone else to fight in his place. Since his religion teaches that no one should bear arms, drafting another person in his place would make him responsible for the military activities of his replacement, and by doing so would substantially burden his own sincere religious beliefs.

That is what the accommodation does. It gets the corporation to act as contraceptive agent for the government. The fact that Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan fail to see this is frankly amazing to me, even more so since the RFRA requires any government to choose the LEAST restrictive means when overriding a person's freedom of religion. There are so many other less restrictive means the government could have chosen.

Judith McWillie | 7/9/2014 - 9:58pm

When the dust settles this matters: Is Hobby Lobby seemingly OK with paying for vasectomies? Is the church disproportionally silent on the morality of vasectomies? I find it hard to believe that this decision is really about corporations.

Tim O'Leary | 7/10/2014 - 6:30pm

Judith - since the owners of Hobby Lobby favor all sorts of contraceptives (16 types) and only object to paying for drugs that might act by killing children, I imagine they support vasectomies and other forms of sterilization. They are not a Catholic organization. But, if you are pro-life, would you still think that you should be allowed to start a company only if you paid for abortions? While that is currently not the strategy of this administration, we know that this President and his party ((and at least Justice Ginsburg) are hell-bent on moving in that direction if they can get away with it politically. Pro-life Democrats (are there any left?) are just unwitting enablers of their ultimate goal.

Charles Erlinger | 7/9/2014 - 3:24pm

Father Whitney, I had hoped that your article would be the beginning of a serious discussion about a topic that seems extremely important. But now I think that additional preparatory discussions might be helpful. I think that the fact that so many of us use the term "rights" in so many different senses is a problem. But that in itself is indicative of a deeper problem, namely, the difference, on both a philosophical and a theological level, about what a human person is, as distinct from a legal construct formed by human persons. As an aside, I wish that you had not used the term "fiction" in regard to corporations. Corporations are artifacts but they are facts, not fictions. You have touched upon some of the important considerations concerning human nature in your very welcome article, but I think that in order for this discussion to progress we need to delve deeper into the philosophical distinctions that have to be made about purposes or ends, and what these differences imply with regard to rights, and why, what we loosely call corporate rights are fundamentally different from human rights. I think that if we never get the philosophy correct we will never get the law correct. (It was very tempting to use the word "right" there instead of "correct.")

Joshua DeCuir | 7/9/2014 - 2:41pm

If anyone is interested, is here a slightly different take on the corporate law implications of the decision from a well-regarded corporate law professor: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/business_law/2014/07/lyman-johnson-hobb...

His bottom line is that the decision means that profit maxmiziation is not the sole objective of corporations, a decision I would think progressives would embrace.

Colin Donovan | 7/9/2014 - 1:14pm

While Hobby Lobby is a victory for the rights of the Greens, it is a failure of the constitutional order established by the founders on natural rights, and on their recognition, after a fashion, of a divine moral law.

HL represents a view of the law based on legal positivism (“what we and our precedents say”). Consider the measure of a corporation set by the Court. If it is a closely held for-profit of 1-5 partners they have the right to not violate the moral law by refusing to cooperate with the civil law. However, if it is a corporation with a larger ownership, perhaps a board of directors and corporate managers, those owners, directors and managers are directed to corrupt their consciences. If they will not, in all likelihood they will need to sever their connection with the corporation. The Court’s standard is one that will ultimately drive people of conscience out of the business world, to the detriment of the common good.

Finally, corporations may be relatively modern inventions, but in the end they are human associations for a common purpose, just as marriage, family and religion are. Yes, they may be directly and immediately for making money, but money is not an end in itself, but a means. It makes possible the housing, clothing and feeding of individuals and families, underwrites hobbies and vacations, sends kids to college, and funds retirement – in others words, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For the believer, even these things are only the path to our ultimate telos, God. The making of money according to the moral law should be encouraged by the civil law, not discouraged, as the HHS Mandate does.

Dan Shevock | 7/9/2014 - 12:48pm

Excellent article. The term "legal fictions" seems to capture the worship of manna ($) of this current crop of American corporatists. Because money is itself a fiction, and so are corporations, by basing rights on money or corporation, instead of individual humans or collective humanity, Hobby Lobby and Citizen United are affronts to Catholic doctrine.

Michael Barberi | 7/8/2014 - 9:10pm

I think there is a significant distinction between the rights of 'corporate personhood' and a 'natural person'. Each have rights but they are different. The Constitution protects the rights of natural persons as citizens. Some federal and state laws protect the rights of corporations, and also shield public corporate stakeholders from the liability and debts of the corporation. In recent years, more so-called rights have been granted to corporations as a corporate personhood.

The larger issue about the religious beliefs of corporations, but not the only one, is reflected in the following questions:

1. What is so legally sacred about the religious beliefs of a closely-held corporation of less than 5 stakeholders from one with 6-12? Is the IRS definition of closely-held for-profit companies, based on some assumption about the difficulty, or lack thereof, of determining the religious beliefs of small for-profit corporations? What legally distinguishes the rights of 'religious beliefs' of small and large for-profit corporations?

2. Do all 5 corporate stakeholders (or for the matter all 6-12) have to agree on what constitutes their religious beliefs in order for the corporation to claim a religious exemption from the contraceptive mandate of the ACA? If a majority of stakeholders is sufficient to determine the religious beliefs of small for-profit corporations, why would not a majority of the stakeholders in large publicly-traded corporations be sufficient to determine the religious beliefs of the owners of these corporations? Is that a moot point because the majority of stakeholders of large corporations reflect a plurality of religious beliefs with no majority who would object to contraceptive coverage? Clearly, the majority of stakeholders in "some" large companies would object to mandatory contraceptive coverage based on the religious beliefs of the owners.

It seems that this so-called narrow decision in the Hobby Lobby case, is not so narrow. Have we wandered down that slippery slope?

Joshua DeCuir | 7/8/2014 - 9:14am

I do not understand the basis for this comment in the above piece: "Corporations, which cannot bear the fundamental burdens and responsibilities of citizens, are legal fictions created to protect individuals from liability and risk, so as to encourage investment and economic development."

Corporations pay taxes; they are also are subject to civil & criminal indictments & penalties from state & federal governments. So what is the justification for stating that a corporation, as a legal fiction, does not "bear the burdens & responsibilities of citizenship"?

Above & beyond that, however, what I find troubling about the argument that a "for profit" corporation exists merely to make profit & shield its owners from liability is that it comes awfully close to the argument of many libertarian economists that corporate directors ought only to care about maximizing shareholder return, & no other consideration ought to be afforded in their decisions. Therefore, all the talk (from progressives & others) about "good corporate citizenship" & taking into account the various other corporation stakeholders (labor unions, communities, etc.) becomes meaningless because the corporation must increase its return by any necessary means. This seems a strange argument for a progressive Catholic to embrace.

What if the issue in Hobby Lobby weren't certain forms of contraception/abortifacents; what if, for example,Hobby Lobby's 401(k) plan refused to offer an investment option that included Boeing because it makes equipment used in war, & Hobby Lobby's owners were Catholic pacifists? Would there be such outrage over the decision?

Vince Killoran | 7/8/2014 - 2:23pm

There's much more to citizenship than paying taxes and being subject to the law. Non-citizens fall under these requirements as well.

The holding of citizenship revolves arounds rights and responsibilities of citizens to strengthen the republic. In its classic formulation this included the willingness to take up arms in defense of the republic.

As to Josh's final paragraph, is he arguing that business owners should now be exempted from paying taxes that are war-related? Of course, many individuals have bravely taken this stand and have suffered the consequences. As John Locke wrote in "A Letter Concerning Toleration," a private person is to abstain from the action that he judges unlawful, and he is to undergo the punishment which it is not unlawful for him to bear."

Joshua DeCuir | 7/8/2014 - 2:55pm

Of course those aren't the sum total of citizenship; but they are no doubt fundamental elements of citizenship (hence, the catch phrase one sees so often today "corporate citzenship"). I believe that corporations do have duties to the communities they are located in beyond just maximizing shareholder value. But, that belief seems to be undercut by the argument that the only purpose of corporations is profit maximization.

My last example has nothing to do with paying taxes.

Vince Killoran | 7/8/2014 - 5:43pm

I misread your last paragraph. But it's a weak claim on your part since there is no equivalency between a 401(k) and the moral, ethical, and constitutional aspects of health insurance. Besides, a company's investment decision doesn't deny you access to the 401(k). BTW, it's interesting to note that Hobby Lobbyhas invested in numerous abortion and contraception products.

"I believe that corporations do have duties to the communities they are located in beyond just maximizing shareholder value." I believe this as well. That doesn't make them "citizens" of the U.S. (or the world for that matter).

Joshua DeCuir | 7/9/2014 - 2:38pm

"But it's a weak claim on your part since there is no equivalency between a 401(k) and the moral, ethical, and constitutional aspects of health insurance. Besides, a company's investment decision doesn't deny you access to the 401(k)."

In BOTH cases, the company is limiting your free range of action (purchasing a product with your money) on its own religious/moral/ethical grounds. As an employee, I may want access to Boeing stock, & the Company's 401(k) investment options may exclude me from purchasing the stock on grounds that it violates its pacifist principles. I remain free to purchase Boeing stock on the open market, but it is likely not as tax advantageous to me since it is not under the 401(k) plan. Restricting my access to one stock doesn't reduce my access to the stock market anymore than restricting access to certain contraceptives reduces the employee's access to contraception generally; they remain free to purchase the product with their own dollars.

Vince Killoran | 7/10/2014 - 12:08am

If you don’t like the investment options offered by your employer, you may be able to transfer a percentage of your plan into another retirement account. This is known as a partial rollover.

In any case, restricting your investment options in a 401(k) isn't denying you a human right; restricting your health care is (and, like it or not, contraception is a core part of health care coverage).

Joshua DeCuir | 7/10/2014 - 9:03am

The court's ruling doesn't hold that the government doesn't have a compelling interest in providing contraception (and Hobby Lobby didn't claim that); the ruling focused simply on whether it was the least restrictive means of doing so.

Stephen McCluskey | 7/8/2014 - 8:27am

Let me propose another perspective on corporations and their rerligious and political roles. My starting point is that corporations are created not by God, but by the state. They exist by virtue of a charter issued by an officer of the state and as creatures of the state their actions are an indirect form of state action.

If a corporation, as creature of the state, has a favored religious belief are we in danger of crossing the line into a state establishment of religion.

Joshua DeCuir | 7/8/2014 - 9:18am

The document from the secretary of state that gives "existence" to the corporation is merely a certification that the formal legal requirements to form the corporation set forth in the respective state's statute have been met. Most such state statutes do have very, very broad restrictions on the purposes for which corporation's can be formed, but other than that, absolutely nothing about the state's certification of the corporation's existence implies an endorsement by the state to the corporation's purposes. In fact, most "purpose" provisions in a corporation's articles of incorporation are broad boilerplate legal language. There is no "endorsement" at issue.

Paul Ross | 7/8/2014 - 8:06am

Does this website exist as a corporation?
And if so, if you remove corporate personhood, does it still have freedom of speech and press?
By removing corporate personhood could a law be passed saying that it is illegal for this site to post articles by this author? Without corporate personhood, how would they challenge that law, the corporation has no rights, it can't claim freedom of speech, it's not a person it's a fiction.

Just noticed this at the bottom...
"America Press Inc"
You are a corporation, you are a fiction without rights.
Without corporate personhood, you would not be able to have articles about how bad corporate personhood is.

"Corporate Personhood" is a vast issue. Tread very carefully on it, otherwise you may lose some freedoms that you took for granted.

Paul Ross | 7/8/2014 - 7:07am

If a church ( like the catholic church) is a corporation, should it lose it's freedom of religion and/or speech?

If you remove the "corporate citizen" does that mean that if a church exists as a corporation the State can restrict it's teachings since as a corporation it is no longer guaranteed the right of free speech or exercise of religion?