|By Laurie T Baulig|
Does a for-profit corporation have a right to the "free exercise" of religion guaranteed under the First Amendment?
Resolving the case will require the
Also, at the center of the case is a family. Five members of the family,
According to the
The idea of "family" is important to this dispute because
Indeed, the issue in this case is really quite narrow. As framed by the court, the question it must resolve is "whether the religious owners of a family business, or their closely-held, for-profit corporation, have free exercise rights" that are violated by the ACA's contraception coverage requirement.
So the Lee case is important to Conestoga Wood for two reasons: 1. It takes the courts out of the business of interpreting a person's religious beliefs and; 2. It supports the position that a "free exercise" claim can be made by persons engaged in commercial, for-profit activity. But Lee involved a natural person – not a corporation – so it doesn't completely address the court's question.
Thus, the court must consider the second branch of Conestoga Wood's legal family tree: cases that address the scope of First Amendment protections for corporations.
Arguably, the most important of these is the court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v.
In a 5-4 decision, the
To summarize: 1. The right to the "free exercise" of religion under the First Amendment is not lost simply because the person exercising that right is engaged in commercial activity (Lee); and 2. A for-profit corporation is a "person" for purposes of the "free speech" clause of the First Amendment (Citizens United).
Left unresolved is the key question presented in Conestoga Wood: Can a for-profit corporation exercise freedom of religion under the First Amendment? We'll get some insight into how the justices view that question during the oral arguments in March.
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