As I and many other professors of international law explained in a “friend of the court” brief we submitted to the Supreme Court, international legal norms, and the legal norms of constitutional democracies in Europe and elsewhere, affirm that the exercise of religious liberty has an inherently collective and public character. They reject the notion that there can be no corporate religious freedom and that religious liberty ends where family businesses begin. The government’s position puts us completely at odds with these universally accepted understandings of religious liberty.
Indeed, the federal government’s position runs directly counter to global trends that we ought to welcome. As we point out in our submission to the Supreme Court, other nations and international bodies increasingly emphasize that businesses should not be focused exclusively on profit, but on the real human costs to society of their operations. Corporate social responsibility means that a global business must not have an “every man for himself” attitude, but should instead act in accordance with conscience, taking into account how its actions affect others. Yet in the Hobby Lobby case the government is saying not just that a business doesn’t have a conscience, but that its owners can’t be allowed to run it in accordance with their conscience. That morally laissez-faire approach is a recipe for social disaster, which is why every human rights body in the world to address the issue has pleaded for, not rejected, greater corporate social responsibility.