Are Finite Corporations Capable of the Infinite?

If you thought the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision was, shall we say, whimsical in its affirmation of corporate personality and free speech rights, get ready for Hobby Lobby to up the ante.  The chain of arts-and-crafts stores objects to providing contraceptive coverage as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Their claim is that for-profit corporations have a right to free exercise of their religious beliefs.  One appeals court, the 10th Circuit, ruled in their favor, citing “the First Amendment logic of Citizens United.”  The federal government’s brief to the appeals court noted that “no court has ever found a for-profit company to be a religious organization for purposes of federal law.”

While Justice Kennedy‘s claim in the 2010 decision that the free flow of corporate money into political campaigns would create neither corruption nor even the appearance of corruption seemed dubious at the time and ludicrous in light of subsequent events, he has a chance to redeem himself this time.  He has a chance to set fair and balanced rules of the game that apply to artificial corporate persons as well as actual natural persons. It’s simple: corporations are not just persons with free speech rights, they can be spiritual beings with religious convictions that deserve protection.  OK so far?  Then corporations are capable of self-transcendence and self-giving love, as well as selfishness and depravity. They can suffer, and even be crucified. But now the shoe of limited liability–so convenient for corporate well-being–no longer fits, does it?  Unless the Supreme Court wants to acquit, I mean abolish, the death penalty for “persons.”

P.S. This blog takes no position on the Lutheran/Calvinist dispute on whether finite humans are/are not capable of the infinite (finitum capax/non capax infinitum).


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