Corporate Religious Liberty
Caroline Mala Corbin
University of Miami School of Law
Do for-profit corporations have a right to religious liberty? This question is front and center in dozens of cases challenging the Obama administration’s “contraception mandate.” Whether for-profit corporations are entitled to religious exemptions is a question of first impression, and one the Supreme Court is likely to soon answer. Most scholars writing on this issue argue, “yes,” they do have the right to religious liberty, especially after the Supreme Court recognized that for-profit corporations have the right to free speech in Citizens United.
This essay argues “no,” for-profit corporations do not and should not have religious liberty rights. As a matter of current law, neither the Free Exercise Clause nor the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recognizes the religious rights of for-profit corporations. Citizens United changes nothing in religious liberty jurisprudence, as its protection for corporate speech is based on the rights of audiences and not the rights of corporate speakers.
As a normative matter, for-profit corporations should not have free exercise rights. There is no principled basis for extending a purely personal right to profit-making corporations, and for-profit corporations cannot be equated to churches or other voluntary religious associations. Finally, granting religious exemptions to corporations risks trampling on the religious liberty of individual employees.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: corporations, free exercise, religious liberty, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, contraception, health care, reproductive rights, corporate rights, Citizens Unitedworking papers series
Date posted: September 20, 2013 ; Last revised: October 23, 2013
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