Corporate Law and Theory in Hobby Lobby

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Does a business corporation constitute a “person” that can “exercise religion” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993? In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court answered this novel question in the affirmative, but this chapter shows that its anemic treatment of corporate law and theory provided little guidance on how to implement and limit the landmark ruling. This chapter critically examines the issues of corporate law and theory driving the Court’s analysis: (1) the theory of the corporation as a right holder; (2) corporate purpose; (3) the “closely held” category; and (4) state corporate law as a mechanism for resolving disputes about a corporation’s religious activity or purpose. Despite the weaknesses of the Hobby Lobby opinion, the decision nonetheless adds weight to the work of corporate law in ordering the rights of organizations and their social and religious roles, raising new questions for future exploration.


Hobby Lobby, corporate rights, RFRA, corporate purpose, closely held, corporate personhood, corporate religious liberty, for-profit

Publication Title

The Rise of Corporate Religious Liberty

Publication Citation

in The Rise of Corporate Religious Liberty (Micah Schwartzman, Chad Flanders, & Zoë Robinson eds., Oxford University Press, 2016)