STATEMENT BY JUSTICE JAMES NELSON ON THE SUPREME COURT’S HOBBY LOBBY RULING
Justice Nelson is a former Justice of the Montana Supreme Court and a Member of Free Speech For People’s Legal Advisory Committee
The only Constitutional Rights with which Corporations as “persons” have been endowed, are those created from whole cloth by the SCOTUS. Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward started the ball rolling in 1819 with property rights. That case conflated economic and political power. Then in 1886, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad created the concept of corporate “personhood,” which ultimately would be conflated with the notion that corporate rights were coextensive with many of the fundamental rights enjoyed by natural (human), “persons”–e.g. the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; the prohibition against takings and the right to be free from double jeopardy and the right to jury trials in criminal and civil proceedings. And, finally, the right of free speech which was expanded to the breaking point in Citizens United and its predecessor and successor cases.
Any idea that the Hobby Lobby opinion was narrow in scope, as the Court wants us to believe, is destroyed by the following statement by the majority: “Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law.” Really? Soulless, Godless, basically immortal, fictional “persons” created by act of the government can contemplate and appreciate the complexities and nuances of, and, thus, exercise religion?
And, whose version of what religion? The SCOTUS continues to function in a parallel universe where money equals speech, and, where contributions breed corruption, but expenditures do not. So what corporate rights will SCOTUS grant to fictional persons next? The right to vote? The right to bear arms? Who knows? The Robert’s Court is on a roll.
In my humble opinion, as retired Justice Stevens recently suggested in his book, Six Amendments, it is time that We the People, take charge, and amend the Constitution. Justice Stevens suggests six amendments–all of which are necessary. He missed one which would deny to fictitious person the latest Court-created right, however–the right to exercise religion.
And, while we are at it, why not simply return corporations to the status they occupied at the time the framers wrote the Constitution–the time venerated by the “originalists”. Endow corporations and other fictitious “persons” with only those limited powers–not rights–necessary to function as business entities. Nothing more. Leave fundamental constitutional rights solely to human beings.