Jul 11, 2014

Hobby Lobby: Remembering our Lost Corporate Religious Rights

The Hobby Lobby decision has people recognizing that groups can practice religion in all spheres of life, including commercial, for-profit activities. This rightly concerns our rulers: "If the ruled think about this too long, they might see how we've tricked them into believing that religious liberty belongs to the individual alone. Once they realize the corporate liberties we've taken away, they're going to be mad."

Ruins of Liberty
After all, chained by national legislative decree and judicial edict, the most powerful institutions of organic group life in these United States -- businesses, neighborhood schools, neighborhood communities, local cities -- have all been yoked so that no corporate religious practice is permitted through them. I am frequently reminded of this living in Korea where large law firms are permitted to operate as Christian communities, with regulated corporate prayer and bible study a part of the workplace. Christians in the U.S. can't even refuse to perform services to celebrate immoral weddings, much less make the worship and service of Christ a part of our corporate life in all the various groups that we participate in.  All this is history.

But, Hobby Lobby makes a simple truth clear: If it is true that groups can practice religion corporately, then the United States' government is widely suppressing religious practice.   

Christians, of course, are absolutely committed to the idea that religious worship and obedience occurs at both the individual and group level. Romans 12:5 even calls Christians, "one body" or "unum corpus" in the Vulgate's latin. This body or corporation of Christians is the church. (As I recollect, we use the term "corporation" today instead of the older latin terms that were generally used for similar corporate entities in Roman law, i.e. "universitas" and "collegium," because the Vulgate popularized the term.) When Christians worship and live, we believe that we do so as individuals but also as members (integrated parts) of their churches and the Church. Christians have always insisted that they must be free not only to follow Christ individually but also corporately. Indeed, it was for "libertas ecclesiae [the liberty of the church]," i.e. corporate not individual conscience, that Christians won their first fights against the government and paved the way for Western constitutionalism.

Christians used to believe that in any individual or group activity it was possible to glorify God. Hobby Lobby reminds us what constitutional recognition of that would mean: the liberty for any business, school, neighborhood to express, through corporate policy, obedience to God and worship of Jesus Christ. Until Christians are given the right not only to live their faith individualistically but also corporately, they will never see the restoration of religious liberty for which their ancestors suffered and died.


  1. The only way to let schools glorify God would be to disestablish the statist system of public education. A good thing.

  2. Separation of school and state, education and ideology, truth and coercion.

    Or, to recognize that localities would benefit from a kind of local rule that should not be tied to the same political liberalism as nation states. One problem we have is assuming that a real group like a small city should be run in the same way as an ideological entity, like a modern state. The idea that liberalism is a good mode for families is a similar kind of error.

  3. I like the way this is heading! There might even be a chance of returning statist education to "local rule" in some sense. What do you mean, Eric, regarding liberalism not being a good mode for families?