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Is a Corporation Religious?

By: Joseph Chirdon

Blog Category: Race & Religion

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether for-profit corporations can deny female employees contraception based on religious beliefs. The lead plaintiff, Hobby Lobby, believes it should be exempt from providing certain contraception that they would be mandated to provide under the Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), including IUDs and morning-after pills. One argument is that “the court has never found a for-profit company to be a religious organization for purposes of federal law.” The Justice Department argues that exempting corporations from commonly applied law would cause havoc with ramifications to child labor laws and mandates to serve racially diverse groups.

In 1990, the Supreme Court decided that as long as a generally applied law is neutrally applied it is constitutional despite religious opposition. In response Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Under the RFRA, if the law imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion, it must meet a high threshold for justification. Hobby Lobby’s burden – opting out of the AHA – comes with a 26 million dollar penalty. However, 26 million is less than it currently pays for employee healthcare insurance. Assuming the justices apply the RFHA test, they must decide whether the AHA penalty imposes a substantial burden on Hobby Lobby and whether sexual discrimination or other arguments made by the Justice Department meet the high threshold for justification.

Of the various arguments made, the writer found the argument of former Clinton administration Solicitor General, Walter Dellinger, most persuasive:

“Here the 13,000 employees of the Hobby Lobby corporate enterprise aren’t and should not be expected to share the religious beliefs of the Greens. What you really have is one family attempting to utilize their economic leverage to impose their religious beliefs on others.”

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

Source:

Nina Totenberg, Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Case Goes Before Supreme Court, NPR (Mar. 25, 2014, 3:18 AM), available at http://www.npr.org/2014/03/25/293956170/hobby-lobby-contraceptive-case-goes-before-supreme-court.

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