The courts have been inundated by a wave of cases from corporations who refuse to provide insurance for contraception based on the religious beliefs of their owners. The Supreme Court will be hearing the cases in the upcoming months.
As a clergyperson, I'm obviously concerned about people being able to have the freedom to practice their faith. Yet as a woman, I also care about the health and dignity of people who need contraception.
What happens when those two things contradict one another? Is that where we find ourselves?
The Obama administration exempted many religious groups from the health care requirements for contraception coverage but now companies who say that they run their businesses on godly principles are refusing to provide coverage.
Can a secular corporation engage in a religious exercise? I would say no because the argument that a company should be able to deny access to contraception is based on the corporate personhood's right to free speech.
Since 2010, corporations have been able to make political expenditures based on a First Amendment right granted to individuals. This has allowed all kinds of money to pour into our political system. This empowerment of corporations takes power away from individuals, because the voice of that corporate cash is too influential to ignore.
One might argue that corporations are made up of individuals. That might be true, but the individual opinions -- opinions that are so vital for a democracy -- are not taken into account equally. I live in a country where I can push a broom at a large corporation and still go to the polls and make my views known. My vote should be counted in the same way that the CEO of my corporation's vote is counted.
But when we talk about corporate personhood and its expression (i.e., huge amounts of cash flowing into the political system), if my opinion while broom-pushing clashes with the company's power holders, my voice is ignored and my individual personhood is diminished.
Treating a corporation as a person when it comes to religious rights would have the same effect. It would take away from the influence of the individual.
I have a core, theological, Christian belief that women are made in the image of God. If a woman never has a child, she is a person of dignity. I practice that belief by using birth control.
I believe that sex is good, a gift from God, and can be enjoyed. Some would say that women should not have sex without consequences and argue that sex without consequences wears down the moral fabric of our society. I object to that opinion, and I practice my belief by using birth control.
The United Nations has declared birth control a basic human right. They understand that women in poverty are often most affected when they are denied access to birth control. I agree with them. And I practice my belief by using birth control.
Using birth control is a faithful act.
What happens when we say that corporate personhood can practice religion? Then we can deny the religious lives of powerless individuals in that corporation. We allow the corporation's owners to dictate the practices of their employees.
As clergy and as a woman, corporate personhood would defy my hope for freedom of religion and for the dignity of women.