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Chan Lowe: Do corporations have religious beliefs?


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Who can forget Mitt Romney’s fateful campaign line, “Corporations are people too, my friend?” It was just the kind of rhetorical faux pas that reinforced the developing narrative of Romney as a soulless plutocrat.

Back at the time of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a lot of people wondered what the ruckus was about. The goal seemed inchoate — and the protestors, at first glance, looked like a bunch of urban hipsters with iPads who just wanted to get outside and pretend it was the 1960s, minus the draft cards.

Since then, the concept of wealth inequality has invaded the American consciousness, to the point where our faith in the social justice of meritocracy has been deeply shaken. Even the most ardent aficionados of the free enterprise system gasp when they hear that the net assets of the collected members of Wal Mart’s Walton family, alone, equal those of the poorest 47 percent of the American population.

All around us, corporations are laying their workers off while cutting their benefits and paying them so little that they must depend on food stamps. All this, while they fight increases in the minimum wage and demonstrate in myriad ways that the employer/employee two-way loyalty of yore is as quaint a concept as the single-company career. Meanwhile, those at the top are compensated relative to their workers at a lopsided rate unequalled by any other country in the industrialized world.

Now the Supreme Court is considering whether corporations have enough of a “soul” to express a religious belief — specifically, whether their owners can superimpose their moral convictions about matters such as contraception on the contours of the health care plans they offer their employees. One can’t help but notice that a decision favorable to the plaintiffs in this matter — where a company’s plan is no longer required to provide contraceptive coverage — would result in savings for the employer. It isn’t as though these corporations are suing for the right to provide more pre- or post-natal care for their workers.

The three female justices argue that a favorable decision would be the beginning of a slippery slope — for example, it would open the door to discrimination against gays and women in the workplace on religious grounds.

It’s beginning to look like the outcome will boil down, as usual, to the swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. By his questioning of the litigants the other day, he appears to be favoring the corporations.

Soon, we human believers may find ourselves having to slide over and make room in the pew for our corporate brethren. Few, I suspect, will be saying, “Hallelujah.”

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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