Supreme Court to hear case that might allow for-profit corporations religious freedoms

Nov 27, 2013

Discussion by: MWaechter

I was quite alarmed when I saw this news story.  Essentially the US Supreme Court may decide to hear a case that could decide "whether corporations should be treated the same as individuals when making free exercise of religion claims rooted in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."  This is relates specifically to for-profit corporations!  I find this troubling for a number of reasons, but chief among these are that corporations could legitimately discriminate against people based upon their beliefs, non-beliefs, gender or lifestyle.  What is being done to curtail this?  Anything? 




18 comments on “Supreme Court to hear case that might allow for-profit corporations religious freedoms

  • Let them discriminate as they please. However, they know that we, as employees can speak out, and we, as customers, can speak out. Any discrimination that the public knows about is bad press for these corporations.

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  • Ironic that one of the principal instruments of power of the US ruling classes are seeking leave to be irrational in exactly the way they used to fear from the people (a.k.a. the mob, the great beast, etc). I doubt religion has much to do with it ultimately, more a desire for further excuses for unimpeded, unconstrainable action. Not avoidance of the law but far worse, avoidance of all law.

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  • 3
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #1 by Gapho:

    Let them discriminate as they please. However, they know that we, as employees can speak out, and we, as customers, can speak out. Any discrimination that the public knows about is bad press for these corporations.

    I disagree. Corporations can have very strong and loyal niche markets, that make them essentially boycott-proof to certain political causes. And then if this sort of things does go ahead, boycotting corporations that discriminate, we could develop a sort of partisan economy that awards monopolies where there were none before.

    As an extreme example, lets say Coca-Cola decide to discriminate against employees in same-sex relationships or just marriages. Either for ideological reasons or just because they think it would be a smart business move to cash in on the religious right. They will lose customers who empathize with the LGBT movement or just equality in general, but they will gain support from the right wing Christian community. The already loyal Coca-Cola fans may still stick with the brand regardless. Meanwhile Pepsi see this as an opportunity to reach out their marketing arm to attract LGBT customers, alienating the religious right.

    The overlap between Pespi and Coca-Cola customers has now shrunk considerably and their markets have become polarized. While they used to share and compete in a cola market, they now hold respective monopolies over two partisan cola markets, the right wing and the left wing. They would also be free (or free-er then they currently are) to endorse and fund political campaigns. It would be in Coca-Cola’s interest to elect Republicans and so they would help fund their campaigns, and likewise Republicans would benefit from Coca-Cola’s profits. Corporations would have a much greater stake in and influence over political matters.

    As I said it’s an extreme example and it certainly wouldn’t come about quickly, but I think such a polarization is a possible long term development, especially in the US where this sort of polarization is already rampant.

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  • 4
    crookedshoes says:

    IMO, all this ensures is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    The rich corporations and their CEO’s etc get to control the poor masses. If this comes to fruition, it will truly be one of the last straws before the whole thing topples. This is dumb policy.

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  • 5
    Alan4discussion says:

    It sounds very “corporate USA,” that company “rights”, will be considered to trump the human rights of individual persons!

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  • 6
    MWaechter says:

    The fact that the Supreme Court will actually hear a case that could equate the theoretical belief system of a legal construct (corporation) with a personal belief system is what scares me. As misguided as a personal belief might be, transferring that to policy that greatly affects the lives of employees is criminal (as least it would be if that personal belief included animal sacrifices or the ritual eating of peyote). It seems absurd that the highest court will have to determine whether a stack of papers that define a corporate entity deserves religious protection.

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  • Why shouldn’t a Corporation be able to discriminate based on the Supreme courts interpretation of a story of a supernatural being we are to pray to? Oh yea,………….

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  • If a corporation has the right to impose religion on his employees and customers, it magnifies the owner’s power excessively.

    Americans consider corporations to be people, even though there was no ruling say that. So logically corporations should have the right to control religion in their “house”. All supreme court rulings recently have favoured corporations.

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  • 11
    Stuart Coyle says:

    And when said corporation actually becomes a religion, it then does not pay any tax either. Nice. I’m moving to the U.S. to start a cult..err…respectable business.

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  • I’ve been following the various cable news pieces on this as well and am as incensed as you, MW. Another aspect of this situation that drives me up the wall is the incredible lack of journalistic emphasis on the fact that these corporations (as well as the Catholic church) are trying to force their superstitious (religious) beliefs on others (their employees).

    If the owners of a company don’t like certain birth control methods because of their superstitious beliefs, they don’t have to use them, but they have no right to force that superstition on others.

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  • 14
    QuestioningKat says:

    If the Court allows corporations to express religious freedoms in this case it is likely that they will have to allow religious expression in other areas. Perhaps one day I will need to wear a head scarf when I pick up my order of hummus.

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  • I hate to say this but it’s already happening. If you happen to live in an “at will” state, that is a state that says that an employer can fire you for any reason they deem suitable (like Washington state for example), they can do just what you are saying. I actually was told that I had to cancel a bunch of clients on a certain day in order to attend a “mandatory” meeting. All of my colleagues and I attended this mandatory meeting (of course), which turned out to be a religious meeting, which included the reading of scripture from the Bible, peer-pressure to give to a religious organization, and what amounted to an hour-long sermon. I’m not sure about the time on that because after an hour was up, I got up in protest and left. But not before I was actually grabbed by the second-in-command who begged me to stay. I had to wait outside because one of the people held captive in the meeting was my ride home. After I got back to our headquarters, I got a phone call from the head of Human Resources who begged me to write a letter outlining how wrong it was for the owner to hold that religious meeting and call it mandatory. Keep in mind that I was not the only atheist in the group and was seated next to a Muslim who was shifting uncomfortably in his seat. I knew I was already in danger of losing my job because I had walked out, and thanks to the corporate officer who tried to stop me, made an indiscrete exit. So, I did write that letter. I was not that surprised that the owner actually visited the site and apologized for his actions. I was one of the top salespeople in that chain. In fact, I was the first woman to ever be in the top 10 in sales, and held the number 3 spot at that time. Long story short, I could very easily have lost my job because I would not cow-tow to Judeo-Christian mythology. In fact, as I said in my letter, I found it unbelievably unethical towards my clients who were not privy to my services that day because of his religious fanaticism, which I obviously did not share. That was around 2005 or 2006. It was one of the reasons I became a very outspoken and unapologetic atheist from there on. Before that, I had always been very accommodating towards those with strong religious beliefs because I came from a very religious family.

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  • I think there should be a trade off. Atheists should get a tax break for having to put up with all this shite . Should be exempt from jury duty. Should be exempt from forced religiosity and compensated .

    This is fascism with a democratic face. Allow religion to discriminate in the workplace !!! , USA, we have come a long way only to go back to step one…. 🙁

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