Sunday, October 31, 2010

Corporate Personhood: Fact or Fantasy?

One of the delights associated with newspaper reading is the random encounter with an article whose headline might not have drawn you to it online, but which, with idle page-turning, happens to catch your attention for no reason other than pure serendipity.

Religion sections having become an exotic species in newspapers of late, my curiosity was piqued by a headline in the Cape Cod Times: Do Corporations Have Souls? The author (The Rev. Edmund Robinson) starts out with a Halloween peg about the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, during which "the veil between this world and the other world was said to be at its thinnest, allowing the fairy folk to escape the sidhe, or fairy hill, and wander about in human villages."

It was but a short narrative leap from those shades and spirits to the incorporeal entities now frighteningly empowered to fund election campaigns anonymously, courtesy of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, a case which infamously declared corporations to be persons under the law, and therefore entitled to all of the free speech protections of the 1st Amendment.

Robinson then proceeds to demolish the premise of corporate personhood as a theological absurdity, a compelling perspective not previously encountered in my readings on the subject.

We may of course choose to accept or reject his doctrinal arguments according to our own religious convictions, but there is no getting around his essentially humanistic contention that corporations are not people because they are not mortal, and, consequently, neither die nor harbor fear of death, a uniquely human imperative that existentially influences our behavior, hopefully for the better.

I commend the complete article to your attention.

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