The basic decision is completely incoherent and contradictory.
The gist of the decision is that private corporations can ignore basic regulations if they are “sincerely held beliefs,” whatever the f%$# means, which ignores decades of jurisprudence which slapped down various flavors of bigots, sexists, and nut-jobs who have attempted to use religion to avoid following civil law.
They say that this is so because to quote Mitt Rmoney, “corporations are people too.”
They say that it only applies to “closely held” corporations, (fewer than 5 people holding over half of the equity in the firm) but provide no real explanation for why it should so be limited, and they do not explain why it does not, for example, apply to multibillion dollar corporations like Koch industries.†
Furthermore, they say that it applies only to contraception, and not, for example, to the JW’s objection to blood transfusion or vaccination, but again, they simply say this, and provide no real justification:
This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate andshould not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.
Basically, it only applies to contraception, because we care about what Catholics and right wing Evangelicals think, but not (Mercy!) Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What’s more, they redifine the definition of corporations to justify their opinion:
In other words, the Court has changed, definitionally, what it means to be a corporation under the state laws in question.
The existential condition of separateness is true even with closely held companies. The largest such companies – Cargill, Koch Industries, Dell, Bechtel, and Aramark, to name just a handful – have tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars of revenue. (In 2008, Forbes reported that the 441 largest closely held companies employed more than 6 million people and enjoyed $1.8 trillion in revenue.) They are created under the same understanding of a wall existing between shareholders and the company. They could indeed not exist otherwise – the potential liability to individual investors would simply be too great.
So in evaluating whether Congress intended the word “person” in RFRA to cover corporations, the most reasonable assumption is that the states creating such entities intended such separateness and that corporations should not carry the rights of their shareholders. To assume otherwise flies in the face of decades, indeed centuries, of corporate law assumptions.
The Court makes a second corporate law mistake. In arguing that for-profit companies can have religious purposes, the Court makes hay from the fact that state incorporation statutes typically allow businesses to be chartered for any “lawful purpose or activity.” The Court uses this corporate law truth to argue, as a descriptive matter, that some corporations in fact engage in behavior that is in conformity with the religious views of their shareholders.
Indeed, I will not be surprised if we see, in the coming weeks, a host of closely held corporations – and a few publicly traded ones – asserting the right to discriminate against LGBT job applicants, employees, and customers notwithstanding various state laws to the contrary.
This is an unbelievably bad decision, and, unless the Congress revokes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the justification for the ruling), we are in for decades of counter productive anti-American religious zealotry.
This is a horrible decision, and if it had been made at the federal court level, we would assume that it would have been overturned at the appellate level before the ink was dry.
*Dred Scott v. Sandford. If you need this link, read some f%$#ing history.
†I dunno. Maybe they do want it apply to Koch industries.