Corporate law is not my area and so I have not especially focused on this amicus brief in the Hobby Lobby litigation, filed by 44 corporate law scholars arguing that a corporation cannot (ever?) take on the religious beliefs of its shareholders. It seems to me that whether a corporation does or should take on such beliefs might depend on a number of factors (Michael Helfand, for example, has identified one such possible factor in this paper). But the notion that a corporation should never take on the religious beliefs of its shareholders seems  both counterintuitive and belied by the fact that we often encourage corporations and businesses generally to take on idealistic aims and aspire to socially beneficent ends.

The point is put well in this post by Keith Paul Bishop, a corporate attorney in California:

[T]he law professors make the following apocalyptic claim:

If this Court were to agree that, as a matter of federal law, shareholders holding a control bloc of shares in a corporation may essentially transfer their [social responsibility] beliefs to the corporation, the results could be overwhelming.

Ok, I substituted “social responsibility” for “religious”. However, if the transfer of stockholder religious beliefs to the corporation would be “overwhelming”, why wouldn’t the same be true of beliefs regarding climate change, the environment, or other beliefs animating the corporate social responsibility movement?

Leave a Reply