Contraception and Corporations -NYT
There is a line of Supreme Court decisions upholding corporate free speech rights. However, as the appeals court observed, there is “a total absence of case law” (before the present round of litigation) to support the notion that the “personal right” of free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment applies to artificial creations like corporations.
“We simply conclude that the law has long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself,” Judge Robert Cowen wrote in the panel’s majority opinion. “A holding to the contrary — that a for-profit corporation can engage in religious exercise — would eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.” The court might have added that to rule the other way would restrict the rights and risk the well-being of female employees who do not share the owners’ religious views.
The Conestoga decision conflicts with a recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, in a similar case brought by the owners of a craft store chain, Hobby Lobby. This means that the issue could well reach the Supreme Court in the coming term.