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Meditation 1135
A corporation cannot believe (or disbelieve)

by: John Tyrrell

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Long ago in University, I learned that the idea of a corporation being a person was a legal fictionfiction being an important word. It did not represent that a corporation could be a real person, but just in the sense that the corporation could enter legally binding contracts necessary to its business which the corporation in its own right would be obligated to fulfil, but which imposed no obligation on the owner of the corporation to fulfil.

Essentially what incorporation means is that the obligations and liabilities of the owner are limited. That’s why we see companies with terms such as “Limited” “LLC” and “PLC” as part of their names. It flags that the liability of the owners is limited to their ownership stake. You cannot go after the owners for additional damages.

Incorporation puts a wall between the owner(s) and the company. Whether you like capitalism or not, it is this wall that has led to the success of the capitalist system. (And without appropriate regulation and oversight, it leads to some of its greatest failures.)

And this is one of the less discussed reasons why the US Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case is so wrong. By allowing the owners to claim that the corporation shares their religious beliefs, it breaks down that legal wall between the corporation and its owners.

A corporation is not a real person. Its personhood remains a legal fiction. A corporation has no mind, no innate intelligence. A corporation has no ideas of its own. It has no opinions. It has no beliefs. A corporation cannot be Christian, Jewish, Islamic, atheist, or agnostic as, in itself, a corporation can have no understanding of any of these terms.

For the US Supreme Court to accept that a corporation is permitted to apply the religious beliefs of its ownership to ignore a law that the same court has ruled valid essentially denies the idea that the corporation is a separate person in a legal sense, and makes it the same person as its owners. And in doing this, the whole purpose of incorporation – to separate the business from its owners – is undermined.


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