Can Corporations be “Religious”?

Let’s talk about Hobby Lobby.

Currently, HL is suing the federal government because they feel that the inclusion of emergency contraceptives as part of mandated by PPACA goes against their religious beliefs.

There has been some frothing at the mouth about HL on the internet, and some of it is with good reason. The owners of the company are deeply religious people who have gone as far as producing a classroom curriculum for the Bible for public schools. Frankly, I go to church to learn about the Bible, and I did a critical reading of the book of Job in college. I have my own beliefs about the Bible, and while I believe it is a transformative book that can provide a firm moral basis for actions, I feel that placing it in public schools only elevates divisions and derision about faith and religion in this country. The true test of whether something like this course should be accepted is to ask as if it were coming from another religion or even an agnostic/atheistic viewpoint. Would the same people be okay if there were a class about the Qu’ran in Mustang’s schools?

We say that America is a Christian nation, but that’s not at all accurate. We’re an inclusive nation that tries to accommodate a wide range of beliefs under the concept of tolerance and not having the state or its actors (such as schools) promote one religion over any other. Frankly, how could you choose? Sectarianism is rife in almost every religion, and usually the breakaways have to do with different views of God. So if we have so many different views, how can they condense them into one course?

The answer, of course, is that they don’t. The curriculum follows a very conservative interpretation of the Bible, and I just don’t agree with that approach.

But that’s just me.

A lot of people commenting on HL point out that “well, if they call themselves Christian, then why do they do X” where X is “have goods made in China”, or “have pension funds that invest in companies that sell abortion equipment” or whatever. It’s extending the idea of hypocrisy and taking it from a personal level to a corporate level.

I don’t believe corporations have the same rights and freedoms as individuals. You cannot convince me that corporations care about anything else but profits (at least those with public investors), simply because all companies want to survive and thrive. Human beings have selfless motives, and while some companies pay lip service to this in vague forms of “community engagement”, the sad truth is that for corporations, giving to charity is another means to write off taxes.

People, especially Christians, are hypocrites. I know I am about several issues in my life, and it is that which I hope keeps me humble about my faith. As far as corporations can have values, they too can be hypocrites. The big difference lies in who can forgive that hypocrisy. Nothing is perfect on this earth–no person or company or organization or church or anything.

So on the issue of corporate hypocrisy, I’m going to cut HL some slack.