Corporations and Freedom of Religion: Australia and the United States Compared

Sydney Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2015

U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 720

29 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2015 Last revised: 7 Oct 2015

See all articles by Shawn Rajanayagam

Shawn Rajanayagam

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School

Carolyn M. Evans

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School

Date Written: September 29, 2015

Abstract

Australian and United States courts have recently been faced with the question whether corporations may hold the right to freedom of religion. In Christian Youth Camps Ltd v Cobaw Community Health Services Ltd, the Victorian Court of Appeal concluded that a corporation could not rely on a religious exemption applicable to ‘persons’. In Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, the United States Supreme Court held that two corporations were able to rely on statutory protection of religious freedom, also applicable to ‘persons’, to avoid an obligation to provide employees with certain contraceptives. In this article, we address the question whether corporations should be able to rely on the right to freedom of religion. We conclude that corporations should not be able to hold religious rights, although a limited group of religious corporations may sometimes be appropriate vehicles for bringing a claim on behalf of people whose religious freedom has been constrained.

Keywords: religious freedom, corporations, Australia, United States

JEL Classification: K00, K39

Suggested Citation

Rajanayagam, Shawn and Evans, Carolyn M., Corporations and Freedom of Religion: Australia and the United States Compared (September 29, 2015). Sydney Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2015; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 720. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2667344

Shawn Rajanayagam

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Melbourne, VIC 3010
Australia

Carolyn M. Evans (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia
613 8344 1102 (Phone)
613 8344 9900 (Fax)

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