Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Business

July 6, 2014

Corporations as people

WASHINGTON — There may be more to that “we the people” notion than you thought. These are boom times for the concept of “corporate personhood.”

Corporations are people?

Mitt Romney got mocked during the 2012 presidential campaign for the very idea.

But it turns out the principle has been lurking in U.S. law for more than a century, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, gave it more oomph last week when it ruled that certain businesses are entitled to exercise religious rights, just as do people.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court’s majority, said protecting the religious rights of closely held corporations, which are often small, family-run businesses, “protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.”

In its ruling, the court said closely held corporations with religious objections cannot be forced to pay for their employees’ insurance coverage for contraception, as required under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Four years earlier, the corporations-as-people idea got another big boost when the court voted 5-4 to expand the free speech rights of businesses and labor unions by striking down limits on their political spending. That unleashed a massive flood of private money into political campaigns.

The rulings have triggered renewed debate over the idea of corporations as people, which surfaces in legal cases stretching back to the 1880s.

There are wonky legal discussions about the differences between “artificial persons” (corporations) and “natural persons” (the kind with flesh and blood).

TV comics riff on the notion that fake people have more rights than real people.

There’s a petition drive to amend the Constitution to ensure that “inalienable rights belong to human beings only.”

All of this calls for a brief reality check: Corporations really aren’t people.

Everyone knows this.

Even Romney, who was criticized for being out of touch when he famously told a protester that “corporations are people, my friend.”

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Poll

Last weekend (July 12) the Goshen Parks Department held its Kid’s Try-athlon to promote childhood fitness and this week (July 18) the new bicycle trail is open to the fairgrounds in Goshen, offering residents a healthy way to get to the annual agriculture exposition. Have you joined the local fitness movement?

Yes, I work at eating healthy and exercising
No, I am happy with my fitness level
Changing my diet and exercise frequency is a work in progress
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