Walt Disney, whose anthropomorphic bent morphed a large, rat-like urban scavenger into beloved Bambi and made us cry, was a piker compared to today’s U.S. Supreme Court. Or at least that five-guy majority bent on turning for-profit corporations into people.
Thanks to the Supremes, corporations can donate front-end loaders of cash to political causes with nary a hand slap, because, yes, they ruled back in 2010, corporations are people and people have a First Amendment right to support candidates and causes of their choice without government interference. And, on Monday, five of the nine Supreme Court justices nudged their corporate “child” a bit closer to full person-hood, providing it religious organization status.
In its decision, the court majority said for-profit, crafts store Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties could refuse to provide insurance coverage for certain types of birth control. The ruling allows Hobby Lobby — and likely at least 71 other companies with more to follow — to circumvent the mandated comprehensive reproductive care provision of the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby can refuse to provide such coverage because it is religiously repugnant to the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood owners. Corporations are people.
What’s next? Google and Facebook get married without benefit of merger and acquisition attorneys?
The five justices want us to believe their majority ruling was a narrow one, focused on only two kinds of IUDs and the so-called Plan B pill, a hyper-d0se of hormones taken after rape or intercourse to minimize the chance of a pregnancy. The justices appeared to slap each other on the back as they wrote: These things can be taken care of in other ways. Leave these poor, beleaguered, Christian corporations alone. Maybe the government will pay.
It’s the unintended consequences — that old-fashioned slippery slope — that belie the sweeping ruling. If for-profit corporations have religious rights and First Amendment rights, then must we not assume there will come a lawsuit litany claiming outright exceptions to regulations that hold them accountable as corporations — when an individual would not be so held?
Taken to extremes, corporations could claim rights to discriminate against anyone whose gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, age, education or marital status offended their corporate sensibilities. Farewell government regulations, our Constitutional amendments and legislation on the books. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who wrote the majority opinion, pooh-poohs that idea. Not going to be a flood of corporations seeking exemptions, he says. This ruling is only about “closely held” companies.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the minority, begs to differ:
Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton) demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)?
I’ll cop to a bit of hyperbole, though only because it’ll keep me from hyperventilating.
Corporations are not people. No matter how many employees, how complicated the spreadsheet or back of the napkin. No matter the religious, political, social and cultural beliefs of its board of directors. Real people don’t cuddle up with a corporation for a bedtime story. This is not Disney World.