For-Profit Corporation Is Not A Person With Ability To Exercise Religious Freedom Rights, Federal Court Says

Americans United Advised Court To Rule Against Secular Firms Seeking Exemption From Birth Control Mandate

A Michigan-based for-profit business that manufactures fuel systems, power-steering systems and medical devices does not have the right to an exemption from the Obama administration’s birth control mandate, a federal appeals court ruled today.

In a unanimous opinion, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Autocam Corporation is not entitled to an exemption from the contraceptive mandate, which requires most businesses to provide workers with health insurance that includes no-cost birth control. The court said a secular, for-profit company is not a person that can exercise religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Americans United Executive Director the Rev. Barry W. Lynn said the court made the right call. Secular corporations are not people with religious liberty rights, Lynn said.

“Religious liberty is for people, not Big Business,” Lynn asserted. “No corporation should ever be able to tell its employees that they can’t have access to contraceptive coverage simply because it offends the boss’ religious views.”

RFRA’s legislative history, the court said, “makes no mention of for-profit corporations. This is a sufficient indication that Congress did not intend the term ‘person’ to cover entities like Autocam when it enacted RFRA.”

The court added that Autocam’s Roman Catholic owners, John Kennedy and his family, do not have standing to bring claims on behalf of the company. 

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in March urging the 6th Circuit Court to uphold the birth control mandate.

The decision in Autocam Corporation  v. Sebelius was written by Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, who was named to the federal bench by President Ronald W. Reagan in 1983 and elevated to the appeals court by President George W. Bush in 2003.

The case is one of dozens of court challenges brought by secular, for-profit corporations seeking exemptions from the birth control mandate. The issue is expected to eventually come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.