District Court Extends Citizens United to Corporate Support of Religious Viewpoint

March 21st, 2013

Another victory for challenges by privately held corporations against the contraceptive mandate. This case involved Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan (who also was instrumental in founding Ave Maria University). The EDMI sustained his RFRA challenge ruling, in part, by citing to Citizens United:

Nevertheless, even accepting the Government’s argument does not foreclose the Court from finding that DF, although distinct from Monaghan, nevertheless may assert free exercise rights on Monaghan’s behalf. The Court sees no reason why DF cannot be secular and profit-seeking, and maintain rights, obligations, powers, and privileges distinct from those of Monaghan, while at the same time being an instrument through which Monaghan may assert a claim under the RFRA.

The Court is likewise not persuaded by the Government’s reliance on Hobby Lobby to claim that “[g]eneral business corporations . . . do not pray, worship, observe sacraments or take other religiouslymotivated actions separate and apart from the intention and direction of their individual actors.” Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, 870 F. Supp. 2d 1278, 1291 (W.D. Okla. 2012)). Notwithstanding that DF need not perform these acts to assert an RFRA claim on behalf of Monaghan, there are nevertheless other ways—besides praying, worshipping, or observing sacraments—in which a corporation (and individuals, for that matter) might express a particular viewpoint on religion. The Court points to the fact that DF provides a Catholic chapel and numerous mass services for its tenants, a Catholic bookstore on-site, and Catholic food options. These services are presumably funded by DF. The Supreme Court has found that corporations exercise First Amendment rights not only by adopting a particular view, but by using corporate funds to express that view. See Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) The Court sees no reason why a corporation cannot support a particular religious viewpoint by using corporate funds to support that viewpoint.

As such, the Court finds that DF is merely the instrument through and by which Monaghan expresses his religious beliefs. Accordingly, DF may assert an RFRA claim on Monaghan’s behalf. The Court takes no position as to whether DF has an independent right to freely exercise religion. See Legatus, 2012 WL 5359630, at *4 (“[plaintiff corporation] was founded as a family business and remains a closely held family corporation. Accordingly, the court need not, and does not, decide whether [plaintiff], as a for-profit business, has an independent First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.”).