Religious Corporations and the Law

A Canopy Forum Thematic Series
May 2021

“Church Autonomy and the corpus mysticum Tradition”

Edward A. David
May 6th, 2021

“Churches can be forgiven for describing themselves, like any other civil society organization, as “voluntary.” This Lockean portrayal, after all, dominates the American political imagination. But an exclusive or even primary emphasis upon the freely choosing individual should give churches pause. Does not Saint Paul describe each member in more corporate terms, as together making “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27), who is to “grow up in every way into him who is the head” (Eph. 4:15-16)?…”

“In academic and legal debates, we frequently hear that the tradition of corporate social responsibility (CSR) supports religious exemptions for business corporations. As Justice Alito wrote in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, if corporations may pursue various socially responsible objectives — such as adhering to strict environmental standards or providing exemplary working conditions — then “there is no apparent reason why they may not further religious objectives as well.”…”

“Secular Corporations, Religious Subjects”

Isaac A. Weiner
May 21st, 2021

“What is a religious corporation? After a number of high profile U.S. Supreme Court decisions over the past decade, this question has assumed great significance as the religious corporation has come to occupy a powerful space of exemption in U.S. law. The “ministerial exception,” for example, as elaborated in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru, shields religious organizations from following anti-discrimination laws…”

“The Corpus Mysticum and Church Freedom: A Response to Edward David”

James Pennell
May 25th, 2021

“From a theological perspective, Christians should welcome Edward David’s critical reflections on Lockean liberalism’s eschewal of a corporate understanding of the Church as corpus mysticum. For it seems quite true — from an intra-ecclesial standpoint — that the members of Christ’s body should consider themselves as more than a mere voluntary aggregation of rights-bearing individuals. Instead, David argues in his book A Christian Approach to Corporate Religious Liberty…”