Tuesday, 21 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Narrow Supreme Court Majority Gives Corporations Freedom of Conscience; Justice Ginsburg Objects

Tuesday, 01 July 2014 13:16 By Matt Rothschild, PR Watch | Report

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her chambers in Washington, August 23, 2013. Ginsburg, 80, vowed in an interview to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal wing of what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.” (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her chambers in Washington, August 23, 2013. Ginsburg, 80, vowed in an interview to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal wing of what she called "one of the most activist courts in history." (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)The conservative majority on the Supreme Court once again expanded its doctrine of corporate personhood with its ruling on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case.

Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said:

“Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.”

And while the Court limited its decision to tightly held private companies, its argument applies to all corporations.

“No known understanding of the term “person” includes some but not all corporations. . . . No conceivable definition of the term includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.” (Italics in the original.)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jumped all over this in her dissent.

“Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private,” she noted.

“There is in the case law no support for the notion that free exercise rights pertain to for-profit corporations,” she wrote. “Until this litigation, no decision of this Court recognized a for-profit corporation’s qualification for a religious exemption from a generally applicable law…. The absence of such precedent is just what one would expect, for the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial entities.”

She added that “the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood…invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.”

She noted that employers could claim “religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists): medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others).”

She concluded, pithily: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

She also argued that the majority on the Court minimized the compelling state interest in “public health and women’s well-being.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Matt Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is the senior editor of The Progressive magazine (from 1994), which is one of the leading voices for peace and social justice in this country. Rothschild has appeared on Nightline, C-SPAN, The O'Reilly Factor, and NPR, and his newspaper commentaries have run in the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and a host of other newspapers. Rothschild is the host of "Progressive Radio," a syndicated half-hour weekly interview program. And he does a two-minute daily radio commentary, entitled "Progressive Point of View," which is also syndicated around the country. Rothschild is the author of You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression (New Press, 2007). He also is the editor of Democracy in Print: The Best of The Progressive, 1909-2009 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). -


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Narrow Supreme Court Majority Gives Corporations Freedom of Conscience; Justice Ginsburg Objects

Tuesday, 01 July 2014 13:16 By Matt Rothschild, PR Watch | Report

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her chambers in Washington, August 23, 2013. Ginsburg, 80, vowed in an interview to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal wing of what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.” (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her chambers in Washington, August 23, 2013. Ginsburg, 80, vowed in an interview to stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health and intellect remained strong, saying she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal wing of what she called "one of the most activist courts in history." (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)The conservative majority on the Supreme Court once again expanded its doctrine of corporate personhood with its ruling on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case.

Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said:

“Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga, and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.”

And while the Court limited its decision to tightly held private companies, its argument applies to all corporations.

“No known understanding of the term “person” includes some but not all corporations. . . . No conceivable definition of the term includes natural persons and nonprofit corporations, but not for-profit corporations.” (Italics in the original.)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jumped all over this in her dissent.

“Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private,” she noted.

“There is in the case law no support for the notion that free exercise rights pertain to for-profit corporations,” she wrote. “Until this litigation, no decision of this Court recognized a for-profit corporation’s qualification for a religious exemption from a generally applicable law…. The absence of such precedent is just what one would expect, for the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial entities.”

She added that “the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood…invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.”

She noted that employers could claim “religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists): medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others).”

She concluded, pithily: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

She also argued that the majority on the Court minimized the compelling state interest in “public health and women’s well-being.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Matt Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is the senior editor of The Progressive magazine (from 1994), which is one of the leading voices for peace and social justice in this country. Rothschild has appeared on Nightline, C-SPAN, The O'Reilly Factor, and NPR, and his newspaper commentaries have run in the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, the Miami Herald, and a host of other newspapers. Rothschild is the host of "Progressive Radio," a syndicated half-hour weekly interview program. And he does a two-minute daily radio commentary, entitled "Progressive Point of View," which is also syndicated around the country. Rothschild is the author of You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression (New Press, 2007). He also is the editor of Democracy in Print: The Best of The Progressive, 1909-2009 (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). -


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