Dwight G. Duncan wrote a op-ed in the Boston Globe wherein he outlined the American tradition of using corporate charters to advance religious liberty. (Duncan filed an amicus brief for the Hobby Lobby case on behalf of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the Massachusetts Family Institute, and the Pro-Life Legal Defense Fund.) As Duncan writes, “The argument has been made that since corporations don’t go to heaven or hell, family businesses should not be able to freely exercise religion.”
The problem with that argument is that a “corporation” is nothing more than an agglomeration of individual people. If a “corporation” has to certify that they are providing potential abortifacients, then some human being within that company must sign off on the paperwork, cut a check to the company providing Plan B, and ensure that all female employees have access to it. That a “company” does this action hardly means that it just magically happens: rather, an employee or employees must be the ones to ensure that the mandated action occurs and other individuals within the company must pay for it.
Imagine a rule that required companies to be open on the Sabbath. “You’re just a corporation; the corporation does not need a day of rest,” goes the logic.
Obviously, employees would need to staff the company, answer calls, open up the office, sweep the floor, perform various tasks, and keep the place running. The religious heads of the corporation would be given the choice between non-compliance with the law and punishing employees who do not show up to work on the day of rest. They would be required to pay those employees, delegate tasks for them to do on that day, arrange their working hours on the Sabbath, and otherwise forbid their employees from having a day of rest (and often, not have a day of rest themselves).
If this sounds far-fetched, consider the wedding cake controversies happening out West. The hypothetical above is a violation of the rights of both employer and employee – which is what necessarily happens when corporations are not allowed conscience rights.
The human beings who run a corporation do not cease having conscience rights because they have a license to do business. Their employees likewise have conscience protections, too. Lost in this discussion is whether or not female employees have the right to work in an environment wherein part of their salary does not go towards drugs that induce abortion. Just like the owners of the company, people don’t magically turn into “employees” without rights simply because they chose to work for someone else.