Tobin Scholars Publish Op-Ed on Hobby Lobby Case

Naomi Lamoreaux and Bill Novak, the leaders of the Tobin Project’s initiative on The Corporation & American Democracy, published a short piece in Slate on Monday, March 24, applying their research on the history of the American corporation to the Hobby Lobby case recently argued before the Supreme Court. Professors Lamoreaux and Novak trace the development of the Court’s stance on the rights of corporations and find that for nearly all of American history, corporations – especially for-profit ones – were treated as artificial persons entitled to property rights, but not to “liberty” rights such as freedom of speech or religion.

While this history reaches back nearly two hundred years, it has real implications for today’s Supreme Court. The Hobby Lobby corporation is requesting a religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance plans pay for certain forms of contraception, and the legal history of corporate rights will likely play a role in the case. Our Corporation & American Democracy initiative was inspired, in part, by the version of this history the Court relied on in the Citizens United opinions four years ago, which left much to be desired, and we hope that the initiative’s new, academically rigorous, and nonpartisan research will help inform the Court’s decision in this latest legal battle over corporate rights.

Read the article at Slate »

Read the Tobin scholars’ amicus brief »

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Institutions of Democracy