Does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protect the free exercise of religion of corporations? Many private businesses, for-profit and non-profit, are suing the HHS over just this question. They contend that their free exercise of religion is protected by RFRA. The Obama administration says no.
Kevin Walsh, an attorney in Richmond, VA, has written an interesting analysis on his blog. His contention is that the 3rd Circuit’s recent decision is wrong; RFRA does protect corporations. The court wrote,
a secular, for-profit corporation . . . has no free exercise rights under the First Amendment, and is not a “person” under RFRA.
This agrees with the position argued by the Obama Department of Justice in the case. As Walsh points out, however, the administration does recognize that some corporations do exercise religion. For example, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Or, closer to home, the legal title of the Diocese of Reno is: “The Roman Catholic Bishop of Reno, and His Successors, a Corporation Sole.” Certainly the Diocese of Reno practices religion that is protected under RFRA. What the administration has done is separate corporations into distinct classes (houses of worship, non-profit religious employers, and secular employers) and then decided which of these classes have religious freedom.
Walsh’s analysis addresses these actions and finds them wanting.