Many in the world of business fail to allow their religious convictions to influence their business decisions. This is unfortunate. For teachings from across the religious spectrum generally counsel in favor of conduct and practices that receive near universal acclaim. From improved environmental stewardship, to better treatment of workers, religious traditions proffer an approach to business that, to a large degree, addresses serious concerns raised by a wide range of business's critics over the years. Moreover, evidence suggests that religiously motivated businesspeople practice what they are preached.
It would seem imperative, then, to harness the largely untapped power of religion in the workplace. But significant obstacles present themselves.
One obstacle is cultural. Many in the business community simply believe, for a variety of reasons, that religion and work do not mix well.
Corporate law may also be to blame, insofar as it conditions directors and officers to check their personal moral scruples at the office door, and instead focus solely on the maximization of shareholder profits.
Finally, there is the United States Constitution. The "First Freedom" guaranteed in the Bill of Rights-the freedom of religion-has no applicability to the business corporation. Yet many inaccurately imagine that the Constitution requires a religiously neutral workplace-a private analogue to the separation of Church and State.
Taken together, these phenomena inhibit the ability of many religiously motivated entrepreneurs, investors, workers, and customers to band together in support of private enterprises that fully reflect and comport with their most cherished values and beliefs. This undermines the ability of religion to have the salutary effect on business practices referenced earlier. It essentially denudes the workplace and the free market of any serious religious influence. Even more significantly, it substantially restricts the concept of religious freedom itself, for it effectively dictates a radical privatization of religion. It contributes to the ongoing replacement of the fundamental right to the "free exercise" of religion (as envisioned by the framers of the First Amendment) with the modern, anemic concept of "freedom of worship."
This essay takes aim at the third obstacle identified above, and attempts to demonstrate why it is both essential and constitutionally proper to extend the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion to the business corporation, as the U.S. Supreme Court has done in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
Colombo, Ronald J.
"Religious Liberty and the Business Corporation,"
Journal of International Business and Law: Vol. 17:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/jibl/vol17/iss1/4