Free exercise and corporate personhood

Rorie writes…

On January 20, 2013, the Washington Post published a story about a series of lawsuits challenging the contraceptive provision of the Affordable Care Act.[1]  The challenges use Citizens United as a starting point.  Citizens United continued to recognize corporations as persons under the law and provided them with the right of free speech.  Now some corporations are also seeking protection for their right of free exercise.  The ACA requires that most employers covered by the law provide contraception as part of the insurance plan.  However, some owners of privately held companies contend that providing employees with such coverage violates the tenets of their religion.

Two cases have already made it to the courts of appeals and the circuits have split on the issue.  The 7th circuit sided with the employers and the 10th with the government.

These cases raise interesting questions for discussion.  If a company can refuse to provide contraception coverage because it infringes on their personal constitutional right to religious liberty,  is that any different from firing an employee for the posting anti-gay messages on a cubicle in direct conflict with company policy?[2]  The courts have allowed infringement of employee rights to promote a sanctioned end (tolerance and diversity), but doesn’t the reverse also hold?  The implications of the 7th circuit ruling are that it does.  If an employer’s religious tenets constitutionally supersede the ACA, do they also supersede the Civil Rights Act?

Do federal policies mandating nondiscrimination in hiring homosexuals or women also become a matter of religious freedom in this analysis?  If your religion dictates that a woman’s place is in the home, can you discriminate against women?  Fire or fail to hire any homosexuals because it violates the tenets of your religion?  Fire workers for getting pregnant out of wedlock or taking the Lord’s name in vain?  How far do the rights of a corporate person extend?  Can the rights of a corporate person be distinguished from the rights of an individual?

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