Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - This June 25, 2014 file photo shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking in Haddon Heights, N.J. Conservative Republicans claimed victory this week in the Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom and the White House’s acceptance that an immigration overhaul won’t happen this year. Today’s victories could haunt the GOP in two years’ time, as the party’s presidential nominee looks for much-needed support among women and Hispanics in the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
Corporations are people? It’s a real legal concept
Supreme Court » Justices’ Hobby Lobby ruling gives more credence to Romney’s point.
First Published Jul 03 2014 10:11 am • Last Updated Jul 03 2014 10:11 am

Washington • There may be more to that "we the people" notion than you thought.

These are boom times for the concept of "corporate personhood."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Corporations are people?

Mitt Romney got mocked during the 2012 presidential campaign for the very idea.

But it turns out the principle has been lurking in U.S. law for more than a century, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, gave it more oomph this week when it ruled that certain businesses are entitled to exercise religious rights, just as do people.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court’s majority, said protecting the religious rights of closely held corporations, which are often small, family-run businesses, "protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them."

In its ruling, the court said closely held corporations with religious objections cannot be forced to pay for their employees’ insurance coverage for contraception, as required under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Four years earlier, the corporations-as-people idea got another big boost when the court voted 5-4 to expand the free speech rights of businesses and labor unions by striking down limits on their political spending. That unleashed a massive flood of private money into political campaigns.

The rulings have triggered renewed debate over the idea of corporations as people, which surfaces in legal cases stretching back to the 1880s.

There are wonky legal discussions about the differences between "artificial persons" (corporations) and "natural persons" (the kind with flesh and blood).


story continues below
story continues below

TV comics riff on the notion that fake people have more rights than real people.

There’s a petition drive to amend the Constitution to ensure that "inalienable rights belong to human beings only."

———

All of this calls for a brief reality check: Corporations really aren’t people.

Everyone knows this.

Even Romney, who was criticized for being out of touch when he famously told a protester that "corporations are people, my friend."

The point the GOP presidential candidate was trying to make was that raising taxes on corporations would affect real people because "everything corporations earn ultimately goes back to people."

The Supreme Court was reasoning in a similar vein when it ruled that the real people who run closely held corporations should be able to exercise religious rights just as do individuals.

——

Alito, in his ruling, described the concept of corporate personhood as "a familiar legal fiction" that retains its usefulness.

"It is important to keep in mind that the purpose of this fiction is to provide protection for human beings," he wrote.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.