Eags gives the back of his keyboard to the SCOTUS and the Religious Right today. The best snark comes with the final sentence: "As the saying goes, a corporation will never truly be a citizen until you can execute one in Texas." The granting of personhood and a soul to businesses gives those businesses the legal cover to deny service to customers on the basis of
-color- lifestyle. Instead of "whites only," the litmus has become "heteros only." This has become the real March Madness for the Hoosier State (Indiana) and the Natural State (Arkansas). Now we witness a Dumbo God v. Mammon schism. If this is a (fair & balanced) wish that those factions will destroy one another, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
The Conscience Of A Corporation
By Timothy Egan
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So here is Walmart, insisting that “our core basic belief of respect for the individual” is at odds with an Arkansas bill that would allow religious-based discrimination. And here is Marriott, slamming as “idiocy” similar measures in other states. And somewhere in there is the family-run pizzeria, asserting that Indiana’s new law allows them to deny wedding day pies to people whose choice of spouses they don’t approve of.
These businesses sell Chinese-made consumer goods, hotel rooms, and rounded dough burdened with pepperoni and extra cheese. Since when did they start spouting off about the deeply held convictions guiding their corporate consciences?
You can blame last year’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case for unleashing a herd of ponies that have gone off in quite unpredicted directions. There, in a partisan 5-to-4 ruling straight from Republican fever nests, the court gave certain corporations the right to challenge laws that they claim violate their religious beliefs. In that case, it was about contraception in the health care package.
Let’s pause to consider this new entity — a moneymaking organization no different from a lone human being who feels conscience-bound to live a certain way because of a deeply held relationship with God. Let’s pause, because five members of the Supreme Court would not.
One justice, the irrepressible Ruth Bader Ginsburg, warned of the consequences of giving corporations a soul: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”
Ginsburg predicted that the court’s “expansive notion of corporate personhood” would invite profit-making companies to start using religion as an excuse to ignore laws they didn’t like. And indeed, states packed with right-wing legislators who see phantom persecution behind every new episode of “Modern Family” have clamored to give companies a spiritual opt-out clause.
So it is in Indiana. State lawmakers were also told to look before taking a big leap into spiritual exemptions for business. In a letter in February, legal scholars warned of corporations’ citing religious justification for “taking the law into their own hands.”
But, lo, look what happened on the way to forcing religion into the marketplace: The corporations — Apple, Nike, Yelp, Gap, PayPal, Big Pharma companies like Eli Lilly and the nine largest companies with headquarters in Indiana — have rebelled. They are saying: No, don’t give us the power to discriminate. We’d rather remain soulless purveyors of product to the widest possible customer base. Which is, I suppose, how capitalism is supposed to work. Bless the free market.
Indiana’s law is “not just pure idiocy from a business perspective,” said Marriott’s president, Arne Sorenson, but “the notion that you can tell businesses somehow that they are free to discriminate against people based on who they are is madness.”
Not March Madness, the culmination of which is what Indiana thought we’d all be celebrating in the Hoosier State this weekend. But political lunacy, of the type that’s been on display ever since the Republican Party hitched itself to the crazies who dominate its media wing.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Walmart, which effectively killed the Arkansas bill a few days ago, remains locked in poverty wage mode, despite its recent boast of raising pay to at least $9 an hour. Apple, and most tech companies now strutting across the moral stage, continues to do business with countries where a person can be executed for being gay.
Their outrage is selective, and calculated: In corporate America, the branding conceit of the moment includes just the right dash of social activism. A little environmental nudge from your cereal, a talk about race from your barista — it’s mostly harmless.
Chick-fil-A learned a lesson in its journey from behind the grease counter and back over gay marriage. After condemning same-sex marriage and becoming a culture-war battleground, the corporate leaders of a company that professes to run on biblical principles now say they will stick with chicken talk. Everyone is welcome.
Good call. Nothing in the secular world keeps Chick-fil-A’s founders from free worship in private. For that matter, nothing in the secular world deprives any business owner of a lawful spiritual pursuit outside of the public square. Their profits will rise or fall because of consumer demand, rather than which side of a biblical exhortation the chicken-eater may be on.
All of this, the free market in tandem with the First Amendment, has worked pretty well in a clamorous democracy such as ours. It’s only when activist judges — thy names are Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts — have tried to broaden the intent of the founders that we’ve gotten into trouble.
In 2010, those five judges created the notion of corporate personhood — giving companies the unfettered right to dominate elections. After all, Exxon is just a citizen like you and me. And in 2014, those five judges gave corporations a soul, a further expansion of business entity as a citizen. Well, they tried to. As the saying goes, a corporation will never truly be a citizen until you can execute one in Texas. Ω
[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]
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