In 2009, using the already-created legal fiction of “corporate personhood,” Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission established that corporations as “people” have First-Amendment rights which, however unintended, have practically diluted the democratic rights of an entire electorate. Now, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, closely-held corporations as “people” have been granted religious freedoms which essentially trump the reproductive rights of women.

This melding of “corporate personhood” with religious fundamentalism reveals a real threat to women’s reproductive rights in this country. If a corporation, with its religious beliefs and court-mandated personhood, can invoke The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to deny female employees a narrow range of contraceptive options, there’s no reason to think that such “personhood” won’t be invoked in the future to undermine women’s reproductive rights more comprehensively.

While troubling, what’s even more concerning about this melding of corporate interests and religious fundamentalism is that it reveals the potential for this legal concept of “corporate personhood” to expand and dilute any conceivable, protected right.

Consider this: in just five years, this legal concept has been used to a) corrupt our democratic process by increasing the already oligarchical hold corporations have over our country, and b) allow corporations to claim, for the first time ever, religious beliefs legally on par with those of individual citizens.

Now, in each case, the principle of corporate personhood was narrowly applied. However, taken together, these decisions are not just maddening, they are ominous. For at a time in which corporations and the plutocrats who run them are gobbling up unseemly amounts of national wealth, helping to creat historic levels of inequality, such entities are also claiming individual rights at the expense of everyone else.

Is it a coincidence that growing corporate influence over our government, aided by historic levels of wealth, is being accompanied by corporations being granted a host of individual rights, as though they were actual individuals?

I fear the answer.

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What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.


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