March 21, 2014

Hobby Lobby and other for-profit corporations have First Amendment rights

By Hobby Lobby and other for-profit corporations have First Amendment rights

The Washington Times has published my op-ed about the Hobby Lobby case, in which we and our friends at the Reason Foundation and the Individual Rights Foundation filed a friend of the court brief. You can read the brief here, and you can read the article here. Excerpt:

The concept of corporate personhood is a perfectly sensible idea, and crucial to our constitutional freedom.

There is no more mystery to the notion that corporations are considered “persons” than there is when we speak of a sports team as a single unit. We say the Seahawks won the Superbowl, but there’s no such thing, really, as the Seahawks — it’s just shorthand for a group of people who compete together. The same is true of other corporations: They are groups of people who act together as a unit — a “body” of people. “Body” is the right term, since the word “corporate” comes from the Latin word for body — and the law has regarded corporations as “persons” since the days of ancient Rome.

Corporations exercise many constitutional rights. Government cannot take corporate property without paying just compensation, or search corporate offices without a warrant. In all these cases, the law speaks of the “rights of the corporation” as shorthand for the rights of the people who make up the corporation. In the same way, corporations can exercise religious freedom rights. After all, many churches are organized as corporations. Perhaps the oldest corporations known to our legal system are churches….

Moreover, shareholders also often exercise their voting rights for religious purposes. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which encourages shareholders to influence corporate activities in light of their faith, reports that more than $2 trillion in corporate assets are dedicated to “socially responsible investing.” These investors view their participation in for-profit enterprises as expressing their religious beliefs.

Read the rest…

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