Nov 20, 2012

The ignored question of corporations' religious freedom

A federal court ruling handed down in Oklahoma yesterday said that for-profit corporations don't have rights -- constitutional, inalienable, or otherwise -- to freely exercise their religion.

The court case involves a chain of arts and crafts stores called Hobby Lobby, owned by a family-established trust, in a suit with the Obama administration over the Health and Human Services mandate requiring health insurance plans include birth control coverage. This ruling will be appealed. Its not anything like the final word on this. However, the court has made clear that the issue in this case is who or what can have a religion.

Who or what can practice a religion.

The clarification of the issue is appreciated, since the assumptions out there in these claims of "freedom of religion" are actually quite confounding, and since, as far as I can tell, no one from the many many groups or among the many many critics opposing this HHS mandate seem interested in explaining the issues. Apparently it's enough to be appalled that the Obama administration is assaulting our first freedom and obliterating freedom of religion, without ever being clear about the messy matters of corporate personhood and religious practice.

Which this 28-page ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Joe Heaton points out:
"Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion .... The question of whether the Greens can establish a free exercise constitutional violation by reason of restrictions or requirements imposed on general business corporations they own or control involves largely uncharted waters." 
In short, this ruling asks the very basic question that those up in arms over religious freedom have consistently refused to answer: what sense does "religious freedom" have for a corporate entity?