Volume 90, Number 2

May 2015

Free Exercise, Inc.

Thad Eagles

A New Framework for Adjudicating Corporate Religious Liberty Claims

Do corporations deserve religious liberty protection? This question came to the forefront in the series of contraception mandate cases, leading to a circuit split and the controversial Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. This Note looks past that debate to the potential effects of business regulation on individuals and develops a framework for considering corporate religious liberty claims that accounts for those individual burdens. Part I provides relevant back- ground information to understand the contraception mandate issue that led to Hobby Lobby. Part II demonstrates that regulatory burdens that fall on secular, for-profit corporations can nonetheless burden their individual owners by putting them to the choice of either disobeying the dictates of their religion or facing adverse financial consequences. Part II continues by showing that nothing in corporate law requires ignoring this burden and points to ambiguities in the Hobby Lobby majority opinion that may prevent courts from properly recognizing and focusing on this important burden. Part III answers the questions left open by the Hobby Lobby majority and suggests a framework for considering which corporations should be able to bring religious liberty claims. This framework is aimed at protecting individuals from the burden of being unable to enjoy the benefits of the corporate form without having to violate their religious beliefs.