The Gospel According to Hobby Lobby: When Corporations Get Saved

Source: Corporations for Christ. How Shall Corporations Then Live? Slide presentation, 2015.

 Does a corporation have religious rights? That is the question at the heart of Hobby Lobby’s fight against the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It’s an important question — affecting everything from health care to election funding to the numerous anti-LGBT/religious freedom laws — that is in the news again as Hobby Lobby takes its case to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. It’s potentially one of the most important cases of the year. And it got me to thinking. What happens if Hobby Lobby wins? What happens if Hobby Lobby wins their argument that, as a corporation, it has religious beliefs and religious rights that are protected by the First Amendment?

We might very well start seeing stories like this, where religious freedom becomes the new euphemism for open discrimination:

Craft Store Announces Conversion to Christianity

Michaels, a nationwide craft megastore, has announced he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, a conversion which could have far-reaching effects for the arts-and-crafts industry and its employees.

The conversion experience, which occurred at the yearly retreat hosted by the evangelistic organization Corporations for Christ, was met with much corporate rejoicing by all who witnessed it.

Describing the conversion experience as “freeing” and “feeling like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders,”* Michaels expressed deep gratitude for his friend who finally led him to Christ.

“Hobby Lobby and I were just having a conversation in our Corporations for Christ cabin just before lights out, and he asked a question I’d never really considered before,” Michaels said. “He asked, ‘If you died* tonight, do you know how you’d spend eternity?*’ When it was abundantly clear I didn’t know, Hobby Lobby shared with me the plan of salvation.”

In his first sit-down interview post-conversion, Michaels explained that he felt terrified about the idea of bankruptcy, about Chapter 11, and potentially dying off like many of his own close personal corporation friends, like Blockbuster, Radio Shack, and Circuit City. His own uncertainty, coupled with his continued grief over the loss of these friends, made the simplicity of Hobby Lobby’s plan of salvation so reassuring.

“It was such a relief to know I could be saved — or at least, save,” Micheals said. “Hobby Lobby is such a good corporation friend to me, because he cared enough to ask about my final destiny.”

To avoid being sent to Hell where Democrats are perpetually in office, Hobby Lobby explained, a corporation need only to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. After that, saved corporations would have the right to exercise their religious beliefs in any way they desired, especially if those ways might save them money and increase their profit margins.

“Because faith without works is dead,” Hobby Lobby added.

Some critics have balked at the idea that a corporation could have religious beliefs or even need to be saved.

But, Hobby Lobby passionately argued back, “Corporations are people, my friend. And as such, they are chartered with original sin. Like all people, they too need salvation and to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jesus said to ‘go and make disciples of all nations,’ so why not corporations, too?”

Besides, Hobby Lobby added, “What is the Trinity if not a Divine Corporation? We corporations, too, are made in the very image of God.”

Michaels nodded along, before adding, “Jesus died on the cross for all people, and that includes corporations like me. I am so thankful I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, because now, I, too, like Hobby Lobby, can work to discriminate against others in the name of my religious beliefs.” 

____________

* For corporations identifying as people, “shoulders” is another word for balance sheet. Corporations for Christ is in the process of developing a new translation of the Bible — The Corporate Testament — and a worship text — The Book of Corporate Prayer.

* “If you died tonight” is the equivalent of “If you filed for bankruptcy tonight.” Source: “Go And Make Disciples of All Nations Corporations: Evangelizing Strategies for the Corporate Person,” Corporations for Christ. Jan. 2015.

* Eternal or final destiny is an approximation for Chapter 11, but translators are still working out whether this resembles Purgatory or Hell more.

About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    David. very funny article. Do you any idea what the chances are that this could actually pass?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/davidhenson David R. Henson

      The Supreme Court takes it seriously enough to hear the case. I don’t think they would do so if they thought the arguments were silly or not compelling.

      Already, Citizens United (court case) has protected the First Amendment rights to speech of corporations through campaign contributions.

      I realize this piece is satirical, but it’s only *just so* given our current court.

    • BT

      Before Citizens United, I would have said fairly low. Now, I’m not sure. 50/50?

  • Y. A. Warren

    Funny…in a not really funny way. It is actually horrifying to know that our nation puts profits and prophets on the same level.

    Jesus was supposed to be the antithesis of monarchy for the privileged few, and slavery for the many. The “sale” of the “Christian” church to Constantine turned the followers of Jesus back to the beginning of human history. When will we ever learn?

  • JenellYB

    There is neither separation of corporation and state nor separation of corporation and church. Sure sounds to me like a formula for corporate+church collusion to take over state.

  • ahermit
  • Zed

    Witty, but in all seriousness, this is a more complicated issue than you make it. Hobby Lobby is, ironically, a person- sort of. David Green is his name. He OWNS the business, as in– he began it with his own money in his garage, hired workers who agreed to work for him, built a management team, etc., etc. Thats what a private business is. It is his baby. No, a corporation doesnt have a soul, but it has people– and If people didnt want to work for him, they don’t have to. Much in the same way that if you dont want to eat Chick Fil A, don’t. Just don’t, and quit whining that you are somehow being oppressed because there are business owners in the world who don’t support whatever you stand for.

    I would also point out that Hobby Lobby has a generally outstanding reputation for corporate generosity and treatment of employees. We dont know specific dollar amounts behind this all, but I would venture to guess that the entire lawsuit is as much or more about principle than anybody saving money.

    I do think Hobby Lobby will lose, though. The law doesnt seem to mind forcing me to buy health insurance (or else be penalized) even if it is against my religious beliefs. I doubt they will have any sympathy for contraceptive opponents.

    • Unah

      You don’t have to buy health insurance if it is against your religious beliefs. That is a ridiculous statement. There are exceptions for religious people and religious organizations. Hobby lobby is a craft store not a religious organization. Just because the founder is religious doesn’t mean he has the right to deny important health coverage to employees that need it.

      • Christie

        The exceptions were so small that even Jesus himself and the apostles would not have qualified.

        Interesting that a few years ago health insurance was a perk offered by a business to entice and retain workers. Now it is mandated by the gov’t that it be offered. A coercive gov’t will be coercive no matter what the first amendment says.

        That said I like Hobby Lobby and I love their yarn. I will be sad if it goes under.

      • Zed

        Hi Unah. How about we treat each other like human beings and not call each others honest thoughts “ridiculous” upon first “meeting”? That kind of stung. I am not sure what exemptions you are talking about, other than the health share organization exemption. I am not well versed in the law. But I am fairly certain that there is no loophole for someone who just pops up and says, “hey, I don’t believe in insurance.” If there were, that could make for a pretty impotent mandate.

      • Hanan

        “Just because the founder is religious doesn’t mean he has the right to deny important health coverage to employees that need it.”

        This is the typical spin of the progressives. He is not denying them anything. If they WANT X, let them go purchase X. Why does an employees WANT of a product mean his rights and liberties of conscience should be thrown out the window?

      • Grotoff

        If healthcare isn’t a right, why don’t ERs turn the uninsured away? If it is a right, then why should your employer’s opinion matter even slightly?

        Next you won’t be able to buy contraception with your salary if your employer is religious. Compensation is compensation.

      • Hanan

        It is your right, to buy YOUR OWN. Why is this so hard to digest? Why on earth would you want government dictating what organization has a religious voice and what organization doesn’t. This is progressiveness? This is totalitarianism. Your second paragraph is simply fear mongering. Does a company tell you what food you can purchase? After all, what is more important, food or healthcare? Yet nobody asks for their employers to pay for their food. You are simply choosing to ignore that this is a fight between what one demands someone ELSE supply you vs what you can pay for on your OWN. There is a common sense unspoken agreement that an employer gives you money (compensation) for the service you gave. WIth this compensation, you are allowed to buy whatever YOU want, privately.

        http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/03/25/a-brilliant-and-innovative-solution-for-women-who-want-birth-control/

      • Grotoff

        If I had the power and wealth of a corporation or government then I would.

        I didn’t create the employer healthcare system, employers did. They decided to pay wages in the form of healthcare benefits back in the 40s and 50s. If they want to free themselves of the responsibility then they should have pushed for a single payer government system back in 2009. Now it is even more entrenched.

      • RCD

        Amen (seriously). The rest of the civilized world knows this; why don’t we?

  • http://aebrain.blogspot.com Zoe_Brain

    If Hobby Lobby – whose shares are owned by a privately-owned trust, and unlike individuals has the protection of limited liability – how long is it before such privileged corporate persons gain the franchise de jure as well as de facto?

  • Holt Irby

    I like your sarcasm with its tinge of cynicism. I expect you are aware that there are, as a matter of fact, corporations that are indeed religious corporations. They are oft referred to as church, or synagogue, or even mosque (of course not all of them are corporations) and they have long been granted certain privileges and benefits much as priests are under are also granted under the laws of this Government. The law has for a very long time considered corporations to be ‘persons’ and to have certain rights and privileges of which you likely benefit as a member and priest of such an organization. Yet the law knows this is a “legal fiction” and this ‘person’ does not have certain rights and privileges or abilities. It cannot vote but it can be criminally prosecuted and punished for criminal acts. I agree with the thrust of your comments and enjoyed them but the point of a corportion having or not religious freedom is one that should be ruled on so the law is clear one way or the other. A corporation has historically had freedom of speech unless it is a not for profit corporation in which case it’s right to political speech and opinion has been emasculated by the passage of provisions in the Internal Revenue Code – this is in a real sense the recognition that it has religious freedom but that freedom is restricted and it can not proclaim support for religious principles if that involves a political principle (roughly stated but you know whereof I speak). Do you think the Episcopal Church incorporated has any religious rights? Do you believe it has a constitutional right to religious liberty? Just asking. Yes, I know its members do but does that same right transfer to those members when they incorporate (which is to create a body – a fiction of course but a very beneficial one I think.

  • Vince

    Men and Women own Companies, and Corporations… Men and Women Have ‘Rights’ and protection of those ‘Rights’ guaranteed by our Constitution… The Folks who own ‘Hobby Lobby’ have the right to keep their Religious Convictions rather than having to capitulate to an oppressive Law and it’s Antireligious requirements…

  • belovedspear

    Amen. A needed satire. It’s one of the great tools of the prophets, after all. http://www.belovedspear.org/2013/07/the-faith-of-corporate-persons.html

  • Dennis

    Birth control and abortion. Hardly healthcare. With rare exception, neither is necessary. By not providing birth control, an employer is not denying something people need, it is denying something they want. Having sexual intercourse is a choice. Yes, people want to have sex, but I want to have ice cream. Shouldn’t my employer provide me with free ice cream?


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