The Hobby Lobby Ruling – Corporations are not ‘Persons’, Nor Should They Be


The Hobby Lobby ruling on contraception not only went against the stated intent of the law used to justify it, it also went against the opinions of a large majority of Americans. The law used to justify it had the express purpose of preventing minority religious groups from being ‘bullied’ by majority groups, i.e. predominantly Christian jurisdictions preventing the building of Mosques or Synagogues despite zoning rules permitting places of worship and a sizable enough Islamic or Jewish minority wanting to build it. The stated intent of the law did not allow for it to be used for bullying people in the name of the majority religion. The majority religion is in no need of being legally protected, and applying a law expressly intended to do precisely the opposite is simply legal cheating on the part of the Supreme Court.

The gender identity employment equity law, which has been stuck in the house for years and will only get passed by executive order, if at all, also has the support of a large majority of Americans.

According to the most recent study I could find, in the first case 68% of Americans favor organizations legally having to provide contraception up to and including abortion. Even among fundamentalist Christians the figure only drops to 63% in favor. While unsurprisingly those who professed no religion and supported the legal obligation to provide contraceptive benefits exceeded the overall average, at 73%, the group most in favor were American Catholics, 78% of whom supported it.

With the gender identity equality law the same pattern emerged. Although 73% of Americans overall supported the law, a surprising 66% of fundamentalist Christians were among those in favor. Of those professing no religious affiliation the number was again higher, at 77%, while among American Catholics the support jumped to 83%.

While the high support among Catholics may seem counterintuitive given that the Catholic Church is officially against the activities themselves, it makes sense when you consider that for Catholics those are ethical decisions, and it’s not much of an ethical decision if someone else makes it for you.

I have no beef with Hobby Lobby’s owners being Christian, Islamic, Baha’i, Jewish, atheist or if they simply couldn’t care less. I have a problem with the thinking that one person’s beliefs are relevant in any way to anyone else, unless in some way the other person is directly affected in their person. And that has to mean another *person*, not an organization.  Particularly in the case of Hobby Lobby’s owners, their being as ‘corporate owners’ is being conflated with their being as ‘members of a religious group’ (and one that expressly forbids capitalist gain at that).  These are ontologically separate modes of being and no law can join them.  I understand the contradictions, precisely because they are two very compartmentalized areas of experience that for the most part have no relevancy to one another.  If they did there could be no interest on debt, nor any capital accumulation of any sort in a ‘Christian’ country.

I have a bigger problem with corporations gaining rights that pertain to individuals – corporations don’t have ‘faith’ or ‘political feelings’, they are aggregations of people aiming to produce a good or service, and by doing so remain in business, and aggregations don’t have thoughts and feelings, including the very complex intertwining of both known as ‘faith’. This aspect of the ruling bothers me more than the religious bullying involved – corporations already have plenty of power and privilege, but there’s no call to provide them with rights designed for individuals as well.

If corporations stick to their primary task, which is to continue existing, thus continuing to produce the goods or services they produce and keeping their employees employed, almost every ethical dilemma the board of a corporation faces is simply solved. Screwing over customers doesn’t make for longevity, nor does trying to maximize short term shareholder value, nor does treating employees badly. Corporations that take the tack that their proper motive is to maximize profits for shareholders inevitably fail in a short time, inevitably behave in an unethical manner towards employees and customers alike while they do remain in business, and end by screwing over the very shareholders they were supposedly trying to maximize profits for.

As it happens that I need to pick up a ‘craft’ item today, a link of chain to attach to a clasp for a piece of jewelry, Hobby Lobby would be an obvious place to go for such an item but I’ll go out of my way to go to Michael’s instead rather than support the constant addition of irrelevant and dangerous ‘rights’ to the vast privileges corporations already hold

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