Is a corporation equal to a person who has a right to their religious beliefs? Should a corporation pay for its employee’s birth control, whether or not Obamacare interferes with a corporate CEO’s religion? These are 2 contentious issues that face the US Supreme Court with the introduction of Obamacare this year.
Technically, corporations already have been given the right to free speech by the US Supreme Court, but they could obtain the right to religious freedoms too. The Supreme Court is expected to broach the issue because of a requirement in Obamacare that corporations pay for 100% of a woman’s birth control. It seems strange that a corporation would have the power to say that a woman shouldn’t have birth control benefits.
In the US, corporations are often considered equal to a person because of the religious faith of the persons who control the business. Webster’s Dictionary defines a corporation as a large business or organization that under the law has the rights and duties of an individual and follows a specific purpose.
For a country that would ban prayer in their children’s schools and often disapprove of certain religious items, such as turbans, I do not understand why the US would allow a corporation – not technically a living breathing person – to cast judgement on whether women should have the right to protect themselves from becoming pregnant included with other work benefits. I think that the issue presented here is similar to problem of separating church and state, which has been an issue in governments throughout history.
It is my firm belief as a religious person that there should be a separation in the way religious institutions, governments and businesses, including corporations, are managed. A person such as a CEO should have the right to their own personal beliefs, but they should not have the right to force their beliefs on others. Imposing those beliefs on people, such as women who use birth control for health problems or for the traditional use, violates the religious rights and freedoms of those employees. A CEO could ignore the beliefs and rights of all the women who work for him or her to avoid paying for birth control in their worker’s benefits.
Retired Justice John Paul Steven’s wrote:
Corporations “have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. . . [c]orporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings . . . and their personhood[s] often serve as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom [the US] Constitution was established.”
Craft chain Hobby Lobby and at least 30% of other for-profit US businesses disagree with this opinion. They state that forcing corporations to pay for birth control violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that does not allow large burdens to affect any person’s religious beliefs – in this case, an individual corporation’s belief. Again, the CEO’s of corporations mistake their leadership of a company with their beliefs. Corporations are not human even though their CEO’s are, and therefore should not have human rights but should be subject to the laws and practices that control business.
Nonetheless, 2 states have ruled in opposition when it comes to these issues. This means that the Supreme Court is bound to have to rule on the problem at hand soon. Philadelphia’s appeals court affirmed in July that for-profit, secular corporations cannot engage in religious exercise in the case of Mennonite family, The Hahns, who own a company called Conestoga Wood Corp. Those against corporations providing birth control had better luck in Denver where the federal appeals court ruled that, religious expression can be expressed by individuals and for-profit corporations alike where a butcher would not practice non-kosher butchering.
Although it seems that the US Supreme Court will likely side with the Denver federal appeals court, the liberal minority in the US will be seriously upset over the fact that human rights are being extended to corporations because the US government is pro-business.
This doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation for women working in certain US corporations. No matter how you look at a business, a corporation is not a person and should not be given equal rights as a person. Moreover, one or a few people at the top of company should not be able to dictate what their employees receive for healthcare according to their personal beliefs. Beliefs are individual and private and they are not to be forced on other people. Even if you wish to support and share your religious beliefs, the worst way to do that is by taking away basic rights such as paid access to birth control. As a business owner, you may choose not to use birth control, but you have no right to make that choice for any person who works for you.