Professor Shannon Gilreath quoted in Old Gold and Black about recent Hobby Lobby ruling by U.S. Supreme Court

Professor Shannon Gilreath is quoted in the Old Gold and Black, Wake Forest University’s student newspaper, in an article titled “Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby.” The article outlines the controversial SCOTUS ruling that has exempted the owners of Hobby Lobby Stores from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers must include contraceptive coverage for employees due to religious reasons.

Gilreath, who believes the ruling to be pro-corporation and anti-worker, is quoted saying, “Corporations are not merely the people that control them or even the people that make up their work forces. Rather, corporations are a legal fiction, with something few individuals enjoy: eternal life. The ability of individuals in a business pursuit to organize as a corporation gives them many special benefits in the business world. It seems only fair to me that if you’ve voluntarily chosen to cloak yourself in that fiction in order to receive the considerable benefits, then you should play by the rules.”

The article appears in full below from OldGoldandBlack.com:

On June 30, The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the owners of Hobby Lobby Stores, exempting them from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers must include contraceptive coverage for their employees.

The Green family, founders and owners of Hobby Lobby, sued the government in September 2012, claiming that to cover the morning-after and week-after pills would violate their first-amendment freedom of religion. U.S. federal judge Joe Heaton ruled against the craft store in November 2012, but they appealed the ruling the next day.

The Greens founded the company in 1972 and have infused Hobby Lobby with their Christian values from the beginning. Its 572 stores across the country play evangelical music. They close on Sundays. A tenth of its profits go to charity. And it pays a minimum of $14 per hour to its workers, almost double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

The court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) as the deciding factor. It states that the government cannot “substantially burden a person’s exercise of free religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

Hobby Lobby was granted exemption from providing 4 of the 20 contraceptive treatments approved by the FDA that the Green family believes to be abortifacients, including the Plan B and Ella emergency contraceptives along with two types of Intrauterine Devices (IUDs). The family has strong Christian beliefs that life begins at conception, and to provide these treatments would violate their religious beliefs, the court determined.

The decision elicited strong disagreement between the court. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned the logic of the majority ruling, worrying for the future problems the decision may raise. “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” she wrote.

It has raised many issues relating to the provision of healthcare and its balance with the First Amendment.

Some celebrated the decision as a victory for religious liberty, applauding the prevention of a burden on the consciences of the Green family.

“A for-profit company, when closely held, represents the interests of the people who run the company, despite the fact that it is in a corporate form. No matter which way you look at it, there is a substantial burden on the Green family,” said sophomore Ethan Gaitz.

For others, this decision represents a violation of women’s reproductive rights.

“[This ruling] shows the problem with placing women’s health as some special class to be regulated separately from other forms of health care,” said senior William Booth. “Doctors have said this is healthcare, and the Supreme Court is now saying ‘its not really important health care, so it’s okay to not give it if someone doesn’t like it for religious reasons.’ It’s not the job of the Supreme Court to legislate from the bench like this.”

The case also raises questions about the legal status and “personhood” of corporations. The ruling specifically states that the exemption only applies in a “closely-held corporation,” which they determined should be treated as a person in the eyes of the law.

Shannon Gilreath, a Wake Forest associate professor of both Law and Women’s and Gender Studies, holds that this is a very pro-corporation, anti-worker decision.

“Corporations are not merely the people that control them or even the people that make up their work forces. Rather, corporations are a legal fiction, with something few individuals enjoy: eternal life. The ability of individuals in a business pursuit to organize as a corporation gives them many special benefits in the business world. It seems only fair to me that if you’ve voluntarily chosen to cloak yourself in that fiction in order to receive the considerable benefits, then you should play by the rules,” said Gilreath.

Professor Shannon Gilreath

Professor Shannon Gilreath

The Supreme Court’s decision also applies to a case brought by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation on the same issue. Both corporations will continue to provide the other 16 contraceptive methods approved by the FDA.