It seems so long ago that Mitt Romney was ridiculed for claiming that “corporations are people, my friend.” Now not only are corporations people, they are claiming to possess the perseverance of the saints. The Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases, in which for-profit corporations are asserting First Amendment free exercise of religion protection, seem beyond absurd to me, but here we are with the Supreme Court taking them seriously enough to schedule oral arguments for Tuesday, March 25.
According to the Conestoga Wood company’s legal brief, the “question presented” is whether “the religious owners of a family business, or their closely-held business corporation, have free exercise rights that are violated” by the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Well, if you put it that way, who would be so rude to the good country people of Conestoga Wood as to lay a burden on their religious beliefs? But I would say that is a misleading view of the question presented. As God-fearing people, to take them at their word, the individuals who own Conestoga Wood, or Hobby Lobby, can suffer, can do good and/or evil, and in general have free will as well as unlimited liability. There is, we could stipulate, no limit on the good or bad karma they can accumulate. But when a state charters a corporation, its liability is limited. That is usually much if not most of the point of the act of incorporation. Frankly, I could give a damn, as far as these lawsuits go, about the personal good or bad karma of Dick and Jane Conestoga, or Buffy and Muffy Hobby Lobby. The lawsuits asserting that free exercise of religion pertains to limited liability companies are frivolous.