Around the Web This Week

Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:

Rienzi on Religious Liberty for Money-Makers

Mark Rienzi (Catholic University of America – Columbus School of Law) has posted God and the Profits: Is There Religious Liberty for Money-Makers? The abstract follows.

Is there a religious way to pump gas, sell groceries, or advertise for a craft store? Litigation over the HHS contraceptive mandate has raised the question whether a for-profit business and its owner can engage in religious exercise under federal law. The federal government has argued, and some courts have found, that the activities of a profit-making business are ineligible for religious freedom protection.

This article offers a comprehensive look at the relationship between profit-making and religious liberty, arguing that the act of earning money does not preclude profit-making businesses and their owners from engaging in protected religious exercise.

Many religions impose, and at least some businesses follow, religious requirements for the conduct of profit-making businesses. Thus businesses can be observed to engage in actions that are obviously motivated by religious beliefs: from preparing food according to ancient Jewish religious laws, to seeking out loans that comply with Islamic legal requirements, to encouraging people to “know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” These actions easily qualify as exercises of religion.

It is widely accepted that religious freedom laws protect non-profit organizations. The argument for denying religious freedom in the for-profit context rests on a claimed categorical distinction between for-profit and non-profit entities. Yet a broad examination of how the law treats these entities in various contexts severely undermines the claimed categorical distinction. Viewed in this broader context, it is clear that denying religious liberty rights for profit-makers would actually require singling out religion for disfavored treatment in ways forbidden by the Free Exercise Clause and federal law.

Helfand on Implied Consent and the Contraception Mandate

Michael Helfand (Pepperdine University School of Law) has posted What is a ‘Church’?: Implied Consent and the Contraception Mandate. The abstract follows.

This Article considers the “religious employer” exception to the “contraception mandate” – that is, the “preventative care” requirements announced by Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This exception has triggered significant litigation with a variety of employers claiming that they have been excluding from the “religious employer” classification in violation of both the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In considering these claims, this Article applies an “implied consent” framework to these cases, which grounds the authority of religious institutions in the presumed consent of their members. On such an account, consent can be assumed so long as members understood the unique religious objectives of the institution when they joined, thereby implicitly authorizing the institution to make rules related to accomplishing these uniquely religious objectives. Building on this implied consent framework, this Article argues that the First Amendment should protect institutions from the requirements of the contraception mandate so long as these institutions were both organized around a core religious mission and where that religious mission was open and obvious to employees. In such circumstances, courts should presume that employees recognized the unique religious objectives of their employer and thereby implicitly authorized their employer to make rules related to achieving these religious goals.