Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Over at Public Discourse, Prof. Mark Rienzi has posted a short essay, "God and the Profits: Religious Liberty for Money-Makers," that is based on his new article by the same name. Here is the abstract:
Is there a religious way to pump gas, sell groceries, or advertise for a craft store?
Litigation over the HHS contraceptive mandate has raised the question
whether a for-profit business and its owner can engage in religious exercise
under federal law. The federal government has argued, and some courts have
found, that the activities of a profit-making business are ineligible for
religious freedom protection.
This article offers a comprehensive look at the relationship between profit-making and
religious liberty, arguing that the act of earning money does not preclude profit-making businesses and their owners from engaging in protected religious exercise.
Many religions impose, and at least some businesses follow, religious
requirements for the conduct of profit-making businesses. Thus businesses can be
observed to engage in actions that are obviously motivated by religious beliefs:
from preparing food according to ancient Jewish religious laws, to seeking out
loans that comply with Islamic legal requirements, to encouraging people to
“know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” These actions easily qualify as exercises of religion.
It is widely accepted that religious freedom laws protect non-profit organizations. The argument for
denying religious freedom in the for-profit context rests on a claimed categorical distinction between for-profit and non-profit entities. Yet a broad examination of how the law treats these
entities in various contexts severely undermines the claimed categorical
distinction. Viewed in this broader context, it is clear that denying religious
liberty rights for profit-makers would actually require singling out religion
for disfavored treatment in ways forbidden by the Free Exercise Clause and federal law.