The Supreme Court then concludes that corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes of the statute and that, as a matter of constitutional law, free exercise rights may extend to some for-profit organizations.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius. The plaintiffs, a for-profit corporation and its shareholders, claim the Affordable Care Act violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment by forcing them to “provide health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices, as well as related education and counseling.”
The Tenth Circuit tells us that RFRA provides, as a general rule, that: “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” 42 U.S.C. §2000bb-1(a). The question then is whether a corporation is a “person” for purposes of RFRA.
To answer that, the court turns to the Dictionary Act, 1 U.S.C. §1, which provides that, “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise … the word ‘person’ … include[s] corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.”
The court then concludes that corporations can be “persons” exercising religion for purposes of the statute and that, as a matter of constitutional law, free exercise rights may extend to some for-profit organizations.
In the rest of its opinion, the court goes on to discuss other relevant statutes and case law to support its holding and concludes by finding that the Affordable Care Act does place a substantial burden on Hobby Lobby Inc.’s religious exercise in violation of RFRA.
However, in lieu of the court’s traditional, well-crafted reasoning in determining that a corporation is a person that can exercise religious rights, try answering these questions:
• Can a corporation be baptized?
• Can a corporation be circumcised?
• Can a corporation make a pilgrimage to Mecca?
• Can a corporation take Holy Communion?
• Can a corporation fast during Ramadan?
• Can a corporation become a bar mitzvah?
Send your answers to the U.S. Supreme Court, One First St., N.E., Washington, D.C., 20543•