That titular comment was made by the silver-spooned Mitt Romney during the run-up to his being trounced by Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential race. It, and many other silly comments like it, are a lot of the reason why he lost so handily. Sadly, in this instance, he was kind of right. The law of the United States is that any use of the words “person” or “whoever” in laws automatically includes corporations.
Much of the precedent has to do with the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. I don’t mind laws protecting corporations from governmental interference. A lot of the Fourteenth Amendment arguments make fairly good sense. Where I draw the line is the Constitutional protections afforded corporations. I don’t think it should be the Fourteenth Amendment that protects corporations. I think it should be law. What I find especially funny is the most vocal proponents of Constitutional protections for corporations tend to be the same people who also advocate Constitutional Originalism. Corporations existed back in 1776. It would have been really easy for the founders to include corporations in the Constitution if they thought it should be applied to them, but the Constitution doesn’t mention corporations. Funny, that. Of course, I also find Originalism to be an intellectually bankrupt idea and the personhood dichotomy is just one reason why.
We now have another attempt to expand corporate personhood coming up at the Supreme Court. The case is Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The issue is the Obamacare mandate that requires health insurance policies to cover birth control. The argument is that the mandate violates Hobby Lobby’s right to religious expression under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). All because the owners of Hobby Lobby have a misguided bug up their ass about emergency contraception and how it works. The RFRA was written in response to a Supreme Court decision that ruled the government is able to pass generally acceptable neutral regulatory laws that happened to curtail a person’s religious expression. And since corporations are people, the RFRA also applies to corporations.
Think about that for a moment. The argument is that a for-profit entity that only exists as a piece of paper filed in some clerk’s office can now have a religion and must be allowed to freely express that religion. If this doesn’t show the perversity of corporate personhood, I don’t know what does.
Keep in mind, Hobby Lobby is not being forced to give emergency contraception to its employees, it is just required to provide insurance that makes it available as part of the insurance policy that they offer. The moral decision to use emergency contraception rests squarely with the employee. Hobby Lobby is no more culpable morally than they would be if someone stabbed another person with the crafting scissors they bought at Hobby Lobby. They could easily just hire people who swear they won’t use emergency contraception.
The biggest issue is where does it stop? Hobby Lobby’s argument is pretty narrow. They are only against the emergency contraception birth control options. The Catholic Church’s is not. They are against ALL birth control. Should the mandate not apply to companies run by Catholics? What about those backwards religions that are against all medical care? Should all of Obamacare not apply to them? If Hobby Lobby is successful, the answer is almost assuredly yes.
This is one of those cases that is hard to predict given the current makeup of the Supreme Court. Normally, I’d say this is an easy 9-0 victory for the Obama administration. There’s no way that happens with this court. I still think a fairly easy win is inevitable, though. Your religious expression forbids you from using emergency contraception. Your religious expression demands you proclaim the evils of emergency contraception. Your religious expression gives you no rights to prevent others from making up their own minds.