So, I’m enjoying a quiet morning and reading an article on the reactions of the various candidates for the US Senate from Alaska to the Hobby Lobby decision, when I come across this howler from the incumbent, Mark Begich:
“I believe people, not corporations, have a right to practice their constitutional right to freedom of religion, but not at the expense of others,” said Begich.
It’s tough to decide whether Senator Begich, whose seat is not secure, is just ignorant of what the Supreme Court decided, the Constitution, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or if he’s a desperate hack just reciting DNC talking points. Of course, both could be true. But the key to that quote above is the senator’s odd belief that, upon forming a corporation, individuals somehow give up their natural rights.
Senator Begich, meet the First Amendment. First Amendment, meet Senator Begich:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The right to peaceably assemble has been held to include the right to freely associate. See, for example, NAACP v. Alabama (1958), which held, in effect, that individuals do not give up their rights when they form an association (1). And a corporation is an association of individuals with rights and inherits those rights:
Corporations have rights because natural persons have rights. It is sometimes said that corporations are “creations of the state,” but that’s not really true. Corporations are created by people — they are merely recognized by the state.
To deny the rights of a “legal person,” such as a corporation, is no different than denying those rights to the individuals who own that corporation. Perhaps the newspaper editors of Senator Begich’s home state would like to ask him if their papers, in his view, lack the rights of free speech and freedom of the press, also recognized by the First Amendment, simply because they’re incorporated businesses. The answer should be interesting.
(1) In short, the state of Alabama demanded the NAACP surrender its membership lists. The NAACP argued –correctly, given the times– that this loss of their members’ privacy would have a chilling affect on their members rights of free speech and free association.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)