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20 - Institutional Conscience, Corporate Persons, and Hobby Lobby

from Part III - Applied Topics in Law and Conscience

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 June 2021

Jeffrey B. Hammond
Faulkner University
Helen M. Alvare
George Mason University, Virginia
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Christopher Tollefsen addresses institutions’ conscience rights. The Supreme Court’s description in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby of the rights of religious corporations affects that question. Institutional conscience attracts more skepticism than individual conscience. Skeptics wonder if an institution can have a conscience or make others respect it. Some medical institutions, looking to exercise conscience, ask if they should be forced to offer patients all services the law allows, including abortion, sterilization, physician-aided suicide and gender transition. If they don’t, others fear unwanted costs to clients and employees. Hobby Lobby involved a closely-held corporation’s refusal to obey a law mandating the purchase of health insurance covering drugs and devices that could destroy an embryo. In other institutional conscience cases, religion could be exercised by the group-subject’s doing or abstaining from acts, as a group and for religious reasons. As in Hobby Lobby, shielding group conscience claims, through corporations, vindicates humans’ rights to achieve certain ends: business efficiencies and the goods of working as a family and as co-believers.

Christianity and the Laws of Conscience
An Introduction
, pp. 395 - 413
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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Recommended Reading

Bedford, Elliott Louis. “The Concept of Institutional Conscience.” National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 12 (2012): 409–20.Google Scholar
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Finnis, John. “Persons and Their Associations.” In Collected Essays: Volume II, Intention and Identity, 9299. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
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Tollefsen, Christopher O.Conscience, Religion, and State.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 54 (2009): 93116.Google Scholar
Tollefsen, Christopher O.The Philosophical and Theological Roots of Institutional Conscience.” In The Conscience of the Institution, edited by Alvaré, Helen M., 2846. Notre Dame, in: St. Augustine’s Press, 2014.Google Scholar
Wicclair, Mark R. Conscientious Objection in Healthcare: An Ethical Analysis. New York, ny: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
Wildes, Kevin. “Institutional Identity, Integrity, and Conscience.” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 7 (1993): 413–19.Google Scholar

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