The recent US supreme court decision, known as the Hobby Lobby case, granting corporations further right as persons will have far reaching effects on both the corporate as well as personal level. International repercussions will also be felt as US based corporations begin to exercise their newly recognized rights and bear the burden of the new responsibilities the decision also conveys. The decision Monday by the US Supreme court allows corporations the leeway to support or not support government required programs and tax based initiatives based upon their stated religious convictions. Prior to this decision corporations enjoyed a limited status as legal persons and were granted some protections under the law that only private citizens were entitled to. Speaking for the majority of the court justice Samuel Alito stated, “By this decision we round out the person-hood protections granted in several previous court decisions and allow corporations the ability to act upon the beliefs of their organizing members. Corporations now may be permitted to believe as they choose and to execute policies according to their collective conscience.” Justice Alito went on to explain that by granting corporate entities the full advantage of acting as individuals they would also be legally bound by the same law and restrictions as any private person. He said, “Several of my best friends are corporations. They never forget my birthday or at Christmas and I’m sure that they will always act in the best interests of everyone.”
Legal experts weighing in on the decision have lauded it as long overdue, saying that now that a company can believe it has become sentient and is a legal person, fully responsible for its actions in courts across the country. Corporations found guilty of crimes would no longer be permitted to profit from their activities and for the duration of their sentence would be obligated to forfeit all profits and donate them into the public coffer. If a company was found guilty of a capital crime in states that used the death penalty the company could be forced to liquidate all its holdings, shutter its business and turn over all its assets to the public. In states without the death penalty companies would be permitted to continue operations under the guidance of a public official and all profits would become public funds. Shareholders in companies prosecuted under the new status would be spared the criminal charges normally used for accomplices but would lose all interests in the firm. Shareholders of companies whose crime required only a limited term of punishment would lose all profits and premiums incurred during the term but regain ownership of stock at the face value of shares held at the end of the term.
Also key in the Court’s decision was the right of an individual, or corporation as now defined, to opt in or out of those restrictions, requirements or taxes that its religious convictions ran counter to. By way of example in a case that will come before the court this fall regarding taxation of several Utah Amish communities. Today’s decision will allow them to withhold 81% of all federal taxes due, which is the portion of all federal monies collected that go directly to the military industrial complex. The Amish are a peaceful people whose beliefs hold that war is not the way to solve mankind’s problems. Several legal experts have said that today’s decision may pave the way for an explosive growth in new religions that espouse myriad beliefs running counter to the laws of the nation but which now must be permitted.