There is perhaps no idea in contemporary American law that is more publicly contentious than that of “corporate personhood.” Of all of the Supreme Court cases dealing with corporations and the corporate entity, few probably thought that a decision could surpass Citizens United in public controversy and divisiveness produced by the decision, which brought the legal fiction of the “corporate person” to the forefront of popular debate and discussion. Then came Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which not only addressed whether corporations could “act” in a manner that seemed only a possibility for “real” or “natural” persons, which recalled the contentious question in Citizens United, but did so in the context of religious liberty and women’s repro-ductive rights, both of which tend toward controversy. What could possibly go wrong? Unsurprisingly, the case is generally reviled by those who can be overly generalized as “the Left” and praised by those who can likewise be overly generalized as “the Right.” The Hobby Lobby case was so contentious precisely because it was reflective of a number of larger concerns in the popular American psyche—fear of corporate personhood, the impact of religious freedom claims in an era of expanding reproductive rights for women (and the impact of the latter, and other progressive social movements, on the former), and the ability of religiously affiliated individuals and institutions to exist and navigate within a cultural atmosphere, which is progressively more hostile to the views of conservative and traditional institutions.
Steven J. Harrison,
Wait, Who are we Talking About Here? Searching for a Consistent Approach to Applying RFRA to Corporations,
Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y
Available at: https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndjlepp/vol31/iss2/6