This year in the birth control mandate cases the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the religious liberty claims of two for-profit business corporations: Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties. This represents an opportunity for the Court to correct the grave error it made in the Citizens United case where it ruled that business corporations have a constitutional right to expend money on behalf of candidates for political office as if they were citizens. For profit corporations are persons, but they are not citizens who have the right to participate in democratic elections for office, nor do they have souls and the consequent right to exercise religion.
Like trusts, estates, and municipalities, for-profit business corporations own property. Accordingly the Constitution protects their right to property the same as it does for all other entities, human or abstract. If the government threatens to deprive a corporation of its property the government must provide it adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard in a manner comporting with Due Process. If its property is taken for a public purpose it is entitled to just compensation. In this sense corporations are "persons" within the meaning of the 5th and 14th Amendments, which provides that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."
Like children, insane persons, foreigners, and aliens who live or visit here lawfully or unlawfully, for-profit business corporations have interests and consequently they have opinions. Accordingly the Constitution protects their right to freedom of expression the same as it does for all human beings who are in the United States, lawfully or unlawfully, either as residents or visitors. In this sense as well, corporations are "persons" within the meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
But for-profit business corporations are not "citizens" within the meaning of the Constitution. Under the language of the Fourteenth Amendment they are neither "born" or "naturalized" in the United States. Accordingly they do not have the right to vote as if they were citizens. They do not have the right to run for public office as if they were citizens. With respect to participation in the democratic process their rights are similar to those of lawful resident aliens. Although they are "persons" resident aliens are not "citizens" and they do not have the right to spend money on behalf of political candidates. Nor should for-profit business corporations have that right. Citizens United was wrongly decided.
It is even more clear that for-profit business corporations do not have the capacity for religious belief. Human beings have the capacity for religious belief or unbelief. Religious organizations and institutions most certainly have religious belief and have the right to exercise those beliefs. And while the stockholders of a corporation, the directors, the officers, and the employees as individuals all have the capacity for religious belief and the right to exercise that religion, the for-profit corporation with which they are all associated does not have that capacity or that right.
The Supreme Court should reject the corporate claims of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties in the birth control mandate cases and should overrule Citizens United for good measure.