We already know that corporations have First Amendment free speech rights thanks to the Citizens United ruling, but do they also have rights to free exercise of religion? The problem is that if corporations have that right, its employers lose that right: Employees – that is, actual people – you know, the folks referred to in the “We the people” of the Constitution’s preamble, will have their First Amendment rights curtailed by their employers, who, for example, might or might not object to contraception or to some medical procedure or another, like in vitro fertilization, to say nothing of abortion.
Hobby Lobby, a Christian craft chain, objects to the so-called “morning after pill”; they assert that their religious beliefs as a corporation trump those of their employees. Becky Sarwate examined the case and its prospects here on the 25th. On Tuesday the 26th, the Supreme Court announced it would examine their case.
They are not alone. Religion News Service reports that,
More than 80 lawsuits have been filed against the mandate by Christian groups and Christian-owned businesses — many of them Catholic — that object to providing birth control coverage or the coverage of sterilization procedures and what some believe are abortion-inducing drugs. Others object to the way the government decided which entities qualify for religious exemptions.
The Religious Right wants to put a stranglehold on America’s religious freedoms, making religious freedom a monopoly held by conservatives. The First Amendment was written to protect the religious beliefs of all Americans (not corporations), but increasingly, conservatives have argued that only their religious beliefs are legitimate, just as only their political ideology is legitimate. Though the majority of Americans reject these views – most Catholic women use birth control, for example, and most Americans want access to contraceptives – authoritarian, patriarchal religious demagogues – like Ted Cruz, who tweeted “Illegal mandate tramples religious freedom, should be struck down” – want to determine what is right for everyone and the First Amendment (with pretty much every part of the Constitution save the Second Amendment) be damned.
The old adage once used of the Soviet Union in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, that everyone is equal except those who are more equal than others, is becoming more true than ever, and could be enshrined into law by the Supreme Court if it agrees with Hobby Lobby.
Americans need to worry about what is in store for them. The threat of the Religious Right comes not only from local, state, and federal elections. Americans need to be concerned about what the Supreme Court might do next to make corporations more legally people than genuine people, and what that will mean for our prospects as citizens of a nation that enshrines the ideal that political power derives from the will of the people.
America could become an oxymoron, which, when you think about it, is a rather fitting epitaph for Republican government.