Problems that result from granting freedom of religious exercise to US corporations


  • Thomas E. Simmons


Religious corporations, closely held corporations, tax-exempt entities, nonprofits, Hobby Lobby, aggregate theory, entity theory


The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision was widely heralded as a victory for proponents of religious freedom. In Hobby Lobby, a closely held corporation was permitted to claim the right of religious exercise and thereby avoid a government mandate that infringed upon the shareholders’ religious beliefs. But the rationale underpinning that decision is problematic, because it invoked the entity theory of corporate personhood. That rationale contains pitfalls for any religious rights held by faith entities. Specifically, the tax-exempt status of faith-entities could be made more vulnerable by the endorsement of entity theory in the context of religious freedom issues.