Especially after the 2012 presidential race, we’re pretty familiar with the assertion that corporations are people, so I suppose it’s only natural for some corporate lawyers to argue that they have the same religious liberty rights as people, too (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
In the most prominent challenge of its kind, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. asked a federal appeals court Thursday for an exemption from part of the federal health care law that requires it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill.
The Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts chain argued that businesses – not just the currently exempted religious groups – should be allowed to seek exception from that section of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs.
When it comes to the federal law that treats contraception as preventive care, available without copays, the Obama administration already exempts houses of worship. The White House also created a compromise for business owners so that they wouldn’t have to cover contraception costs directly through their insurance plans.
But for Hobby Lobby, that’s apparently not quite good enough. The company’s lawyer, Kyle Duncan, said that if corporations have free-speech rights under Citizens United, then corporations have religious liberty, too.
“We don’t say, well, a corporation can’t exercise a right because it’s in corporate form,” Duncan said. “Is religion the kind of right can only be exercised by a natural person? Well, the question nearly answers itself. … It’s not a purely personal right.”
And in this case, this “person” is so opposed to birth control, he/she/it doesn’t want his/her/its employees to have subsidized access to contraception, the workers’ preferences notwithstanding.
The Obama administration, not surprisingly, doesn’t see it that way.
A lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice argued that allowing for-profit corporations to exempt themselves from requirements that violate their religious beliefs would be in effect allowing the business to impose its religious beliefs on employees.
“If you make an exemption for the employer, it comes at the expense of the employee,” said Alisa Klein, who argued the government’s case in a similar contraceptives mandate appeal heard Wednesday in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
So, do the religious-liberty claims of pseudo-people (corporations) trump the interests of real people (the business’ employees)? I’ll look forward to the ruling.