Sanctuary Corporations: Should Liberal Corporations Get Religion?

44 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2017 Last revised: 25 Aug 2018

See all articles by Elizabeth Brown

Elizabeth Brown

Bentley University

Inara Scott

Oregon State University, College of Business

Date Written: August 18, 2017


Spurred on by the Trump administration’s aggressive deportation policies and open hostility to immigrants, the “sanctuary” movement has seen rapid growth across a variety of sectors. With a clear religious foundation, churches, synagogues, and individuals associated with the sanctuary movement have pledged to offer housing, support, and assistance to vulnerable individuals at risk for deportation. Some businesses have publicly expressed their support for undocumented people; we now see sanctuary restaurants, sanctuary homes (for domestic workers), and sanctuary unions. But what happens if these businesses run afoul of immigration laws? Can they claim religious freedom as a defense for their actions? Following the logic of Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, we argue that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) could provide a shield for businesses, provided they act out of a sincere religious belief. Given this conclusion, we discuss the expanded role religion has begun to play in business today, and how this may ultimately be a dangerous result for civil society.

Keywords: Corporations, Immigration, Freedom of Religion, First Amendment, Sanctuary

Suggested Citation

Brown, Elizabeth A. and Scott, Inara, Sanctuary Corporations: Should Liberal Corporations Get Religion? (August 18, 2017). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 20, No. 5, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Elizabeth A. Brown

Bentley University ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02145
United States

Inara Scott (Contact Author)

Oregon State University, College of Business ( email )

443 Austin Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331
United States

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