The Supreme Court has taken the classic notion that corporations are people to troubling levels in cases like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which has corrupted the political process. Now they are about to do the same with religion, as recent colloquies before the court suggest.

In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., comments by the justices from the bench during oral arguments — not always indicative of votes but often reflective of them — seem to indicate a 5-4 split in favor of allowing a corporation to deny employees certain medical assistance under the corporate insurance plans on the basis of the "religion" of the corporation.


What religion is a corporation, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked counsel. Is General Motors Catholic? Are Lever Brothers Jewish? Starbucks Ethical Culturist? Is the religion of the corporation that of the chief owner, as Hobby Lobby suggests? Or is its religion that of the shareholders, who are the real owners of corporations? What does the corporate application say about its religion, if anything?

The whole idea of a corporate religion is ridiculous, another attempt by influential people to inject their political preferences into public policy. Corporations are legal fictions, courts rationalize when they do not indict corporate culprits for corporate crimes. So why are they people when it suits conservative politicians on or off the court? Remember the apt, droll advertisement, "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's Rye Bread." Levy's company is not Jewish, nor is Hobby Lobby any religion.

Goldfarb is an attorney, author and literary agent based in Washington, D.C., and Miami. Contact him at