FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND CORPORATE PERSONHOOD: VIEWS FROM THE US SUPREME COURT
Authors: Biagio Andò
This paper examines, through the lens of two seminal judgments by the US Supreme Court (Citizens United v Federal Election Commission and Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores), the issues of speech and freedom of religion as corporate rights. It looks at two distinct levels of analysis, namely the content assigned to these freedoms and the theories of corporate personhood impacting on the entitlement of legal persons to specific rights. Are corporations, legally understood as ‘persons’, fully equal to human entities? Should First Amendment freedoms be recognized in the same way and to the same extent to corporate entities and natural persons or should this equal treatment reveal a dark side of the law, insofar as the principle of the equal protection of the laws would be jeopardized? This survey will address these major issues, highlighting the manifold factors and arguments underlying the Court’s decisions. A general conclusive answer to those questions may not be given; it is necessary to scrutinize the specific facts and legal points of the cases putting at the foreground the issue of corporate personality.
[Corporate personhood; exercise of religion; speech; electioneering communications; independent expenditures; health plans]
Keywords: Corporate Personhood - Exercise Of Religion - Speech; Electioneering Communications - Independent Expenditures - Health Plans