Huq: Do Americans Think Corporations Have the Right to Religious Freedom?

Do Americans Think Corporations Have the Right to Religious Freedom?

The Supreme Court ruled 5–4 on Monday that Hobby Lobby, a family-owned hardware retail chain, has a right to religious freedom. A crucial issue dividing the majority and the dissents was what kinds of corporations have this right. For the majority, Justice Alito argued that since churches and non-profit religious groups are already considered “persons” according to the law at issue in the case, “closely held” for-profit companies are too. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed. She argued that for-profit entities have “no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires,” and so can’t have religious freedom rights.

What does the American public think about religious rights for corporations? Over the past few months, we’ve conducted a series of surveys, delivered online to more than 300 people across the country between the ages of 18 and 76. More than 35 percent of participants describing themselves as somewhat religious and a further 25 percent describing themselves as extremely religious. Our respondents also varied in terms of their political views, race, and income.

To understand how people think about corporate rights, we asked how important they thought the religious liberty right of a company’s owner, its employees, and the company itself, on a scale of 1 to 7. We asked about a family owned small company, a local publicly traded chain, a national mega corporation, a secular non-profit organization, and a church.