On the liberal side of the spectrum, the idea that corporations have the same rights as people is horrifying. “Corporations don’t pray, they don’t express devotion to a god, they don’t have a religious conscience,” said David Gans, the director of the civil rights program and left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.
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Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the ruling will be historic. "This would be the first time the Supreme Court has ever recognized that corporations are protected in their religious liberty in the same way that living, breathing individuals are," she said.
CAC's Elizabeth Wydra appeared on ABC News World News Tonight to discuss the Supreme Court's decision to hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that secular, for-profit corporations provide the full range of contraception options to employees in their health insurance policies.
When business owners create a corporation as the means of carrying out their business, they create a distinct legal entity with rights, obligations, privileges and liabilities that are different from the individuals who set up the corporation. This generally works to the benefit of the individual owners, which is why people choose to incorporate in the first place. And it means that certain rights specific to individuals do not carry over to the corporate form.
The law's defenders say the exclusions should not extend to corporations like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. "Corporations don't pray … they don't have a religious conscience," says David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal law firm and advocacy group. "These are all human attributes that don't apply to corporations."
“In more than 225 years since the ratification of the Constitution, the court has never held that a secular for-profit corporation has the right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment, and it shouldn't start now," said a statement from the Constitutional Accountability Center.
"No court, prior to the handful of courts that have accepted the corporate challenges to the ACA's contraception mandate, has ever ruled that a secular, for-profit business is protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of religious free exercise," said Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center. "If the Supreme Court were to hold in this case that commercial enterprise could claim a right to the free exercise of religion, it would mark a sea change in free exercise jurisprudence and take the corporate personhood concept we saw expressed in Citizens United to a ridiculous extreme."
Citing McConnell’s historical scholarship, Gans argued in the podcast and his brief to the Supreme Court that “the Founding generation well understood that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise was an inalienable individual right, inextricably linked to the human capacity to express devotion to a god and act on the basis of reason and conscience.” He also emphasized that English common law during the Founding generation sharply distinguished between religious and other private corporations.
CAC's Elizabeth Wydra appeared throughout the country on NBC local distribution dicussing the challenges to the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate by secular, for-profit corporations including Hobby Lobby stores.
Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, said there was no historic precedent of applying freedom of religion protections to for-profit entities. "In the entire history of US constitutional law, secular for-profit corporations have never been understood to be protected by the first amendment right to free exercise of religion," Wydra told AFP.
CAC's David Gans appeared on Al Jazeera America's program 'Consider This,' hosted by Antonio Mora, to discuss the issues underlying Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, soon to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“With Congress gridlocked, much of the second term’s success is going to be based on his administrative actions and this should ensure that at least those actions get a fair hearing in this critical court,” said Douglas Kendall, founder of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.