HOME > NEWSROOM > ARTICLES > Will For-Profits Suffer Legal Loss?

Will For-Profits Suffer Legal Loss?

Hobby LobbyWhen a Supreme Court justice issued an order the day after Christmas, it gave us a window into a crucial religious liberty issue that has been brewing for some time. The question is whether a closely-held, for-profit religious organization can exercise religious freedom rights.

On December 26, Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied a request for a temporary injunction that had been filed by Hobby Lobby Stores, a family-owned for-profit company that has been fighting to be exempted from the strictures of the ObamaCare/HHS mandate that requires all employers to provide insurance access to abortion medications for their employees. The owners of Hobby Lobby are objecting to that mandate on religious grounds, but Sotomayor wrote that “[t]his Court has not previously addressed” the issue of closely-held, for-profit companies possessing religious liberty rights, although the High Court has ruled that commercial businesses do have other rights within the First Amendment genus, such as in the free speech realm. In the HHS mandate cases, federal judges have side-stepped the precise legal issue; instead ruling in the cases of both Domino’s Pizza and Tyndale House Publishing that they have legal “standing” to raise religious objections in their lawsuits.

The Supreme Court will eventually have to address this issue as it is a river with countless tributaries. Take as an example ENDA (Employment Nondiscrimination Act), the bill that would make it difficult or impossible for many Christian organizations to turn down homosexuals in hiring decisions unless strong religious liberty exemptions are built into it. NRB has opposed ENDA for that very reason. In my past testimony before both the House and the Senate, I pointed out the “exemption” in ENDA is similar to language already tested in one federal case, and the court there ruled that a closely-held commercial business could not enforce the religious beliefs of its owner. If the Supreme Court takes this issue up and decides wrongly, then a host of for-profit religious organizations will be without any semblance of religious freedom, including broadcasting networks, bookstores, adoption agencies, hospitals, and mental health counseling centers, to name just a few.

The “corporate status” of organizations is often described as a legal fiction, though those various corporate categories have been created for sound policy and precedential reasons. Nevertheless, to say that huge commercial organizations can possess free speech rights but that family-owned businesses cannot possess comparable rights to religious conscience would seem to be a grotesque form of science fiction

By Craig Parshall
Senior Vice President & General Counsel, NRB
Director, John Milton Project for Free Speech

Click here to read more articles written by Craig Parshall.

Published: January 10, 2013

Latest News

NRB Spearheads ‘Get Out the Vote’ PSA Campaign

NRB has initiated a “Get Out the Vote” campaign to encourage Christians across America to cast their votes in the upcoming election, which could prove to be one of the most crucial in our nation’s history.

Joni Eareckson Tada Presented with the First True Woman Award

Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, received a special honor earlier this month at the True Woman 2014 National Women's Conference.

In Memoriam: Herb Jacobson, Reach Beyond's Longest Serving Missionary

Just a few months after surpassing 65 years of service with Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB Global) and just three days after celebrating his 89th birthday, missionary engineer Herb Jacobson went to be with the Lord on Wednesday, October 8.

NRB Board Member Jay Flowers Now Managing Director at Grace to You Ministry

Jay Flowers, who serves on the NRB Board of Directors, the NRB President’s Council, and Pastor John MacArthur’s Grace to You ministry, has been named Managing Director at Grace to You.

NRB Concerned by Call for Hate Speech Proceeding

A petition to the FCC challenging a broadcaster license alleges “hate speech” and calls for a FCC hearing on the subject. Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to...

City of Houston Subpoenas Sermons

NRB and many others were alarmed this week by the City of Houston’s subpoena of local pastors’ church sermons. “This inquisition by the City of Houston is unconstitutional,” declared Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB.

Thousands Gather to Pray for Washington

On Columbus Day, I was pleased to gather with thousands of Christians from churches around the Washington, DC area to pray for this capital city.

FCC Calls for Input on LPTV

The FCC recently declared that it is suspending deadlines for construction of new digital low power television (LPTV) stations, and similarly stated its intent to postpone the 2015 deadline for...

NRB to Debut Film & Entertainment Summit in 2015

NRB is launching the Film & Entertainment Summit at the NRB 2015 International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, TN.

Don't Miss Early Bird Rates for the NRB15 Int’l Christian Media Convention!

Registration is open for the NRB 2015 International Christian Media Convention, to be held February 23-26, 2015, in Nashville, TN. But to take advantage of the Early Bird Registration discounts and save up to $200, you’ll need to register by November 15, 2014.

More News