Civil and Human Rights

SCOTUS: Corporations are people

By Deena Zaru

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that for-profit corporations can be exempt from providing certain contraceptives to their employees if providing coverage for those products conflicts with the corporation’s religious beliefs.

The Court’s opinion affirmed the principle that corporations are people and therefore like people, have constitutionally protected religious liberty.

The 5-4 decision against Obama’s contraceptive mandate not only presents legal obstacles for the mandate but also sets a significant precedent when it comes to the court’s understanding of religious freedom.

“Never before in our nation’s history has the Court ruled that for-profit corporations share in the right to free exercise of religion,” Elizabeth Wydra, Chief Counsel for the progressive Center for Constitutional Accountability’s told State of the Union.

Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the Hobby Lobby in the case against the Department of Health and Human Services, says today’s decision is a “big win for freedom in America.”

“The government said that you couldn’t exercise religion while you earn a living or while starting a business. Today, the Supreme Court squarely rejected that approach,” said Rienzi.

Wydra says that this decision invites “a number of ‘me too’ objections by other companies on religious grounds” that could extend to matters such as “anti-discrimination law to medical procedures such as blood transfusions or vaccinations.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, wrote in her dissent that this decision would hurt those employed by corporations such as Hobby Lobby “who do not share their employer’s faith.” And added, “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

While Justice Samuel Alito, delivering the opinion of the Court, emphasized that the terms of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 “make it perfectly clear that Congress does not discriminate in this way against men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.”

More from Civil and Human Rights