Bad Catholic III: Personhood

I’ll admit, the whole Pope-thing whizzed by so fast I did not com­ment, and dropped this thread so to recap on Pope-ery thoughts; I’m cau­tiously opti­mistic about this guy, he is set­ting the right tone, and while not tech­ni­cally a Euro­pean, an eth­nic Ital­ian from South Amer­ica is the per­fect com­pro­mise for a hide-bound church.  And I love Jesuits irra­tionally, for their rationality.

So on to today’s topic, per­son­hood, which is not going to be about abor­tion at all, to the dis­may of some and the delight of oth­ers.  It’s actu­ally about cor­po­rate per­son­hood, or rather, rea­son num­ber 5,037 why con­fus­ing cor­po­ra­tions with actual peo­ple is bad for democ­racy.  To whit, I think a Per­son is a liv­ing, breath­ing, post-birth human being — and not a legal entity struc­tured for com­mer­cial ben­e­fit and profit. Where the hell am I going with this?  Right now, social media is explod­ing because Eden Foods, a crunchy health food cor­po­ra­tion founded by a Roman Catholic, has decided to sue over the Oba­macare pro­vi­sions on pro­vid­ing birth con­trol cov­er­age to employ­ees.  Since a great num­ber of their cus­tomers are lib­er­als, they are get­ting them­selves in quite a pickle (do they make soy pick­les yet? blech).

Here is part of a state­ment by co-founder Michael Pot­ter, (excerpted from, where Eden is based):

Pot­ter: We had to object to the bla­tant gov­ern­ment over­reach that we saw hap­pen­ing. The gov­ern­ment is just walk­ing on the rights of com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als who are try­ing to exer­cise their lives con­sis­tent with their con­science.  The affront to the exer­cise of reli­gious prac­tices is quite obvi­ous, there’s obvi­ously some con­flict there. We felt that the safe thing to do would have been to be an ostrich and stick our head in the sand, but we decided not to do that.”

Note how Mr. Pot­ter con­flates “com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als” as the same thing — yet cor­po­ra­tions do not have  lives “to exer­cise” and they cer­tainly do not have a “con­science” (this is not meant as a dig at cor­po­ra­tions per se; a cor­po­rate exec­u­tive can have a con­science, but a busi­ness can­not).  He says it is obvi­ously an “affront to reli­gious prac­tices,” but what reli­gion does his com­pany prac­tice?  This is not a point that is just about gram­mar — free­dom of reli­gion and the first amend­ment apply to Peo­ple. Real Peo­ple.  A food prod­ucts cor­po­ra­tion does not have a com­pany reli­gion — the own­ers of the com­pany may have a reli­gion, but so too do the Amer­i­can cit­i­zens who work for said cor­po­ra­tion — and if my reli­gion says I am free to use con­tra­cep­tives, why is my employer say­ing “it infringes on his reli­gious free­dom to pro­vide that ben­e­fit? Surely there are other gov­ern­ment man­dated inclu­sions that rub up against a cor­po­rate officer’s reli­gious views, and he is absolutely free to not use con­tra­cep­tives in his own life.  But con­flat­ing his per­sonal views with his com­mer­cial enter­prise is his mis­take — if your state or city requires domes­tic part­ner inclu­sions for com­pa­nies that pro­vide ben­e­fits, does it mean that cor­po­rate offi­cers are sanc­tion­ing liv­ing in sin?  Does that vio­late a company’s religion?

I love cor­po­ra­tions — I own two of ‘em. But I am pretty clear on where my “Per­son” ends and the “Per­sons” who are my employ­ees Begin.  And I’m pretty cer­tain they value their reli­gious lib­erty too.