May 05, 2009
"The Christian Entrepreneur"
Posted by Ronald Colombo

Christine's question, "what is a Christian Entrepreneur" sparked a memory from this past semester that I thought worth sharing.

I had the joy of teaching a seminar entitled "Controversies in Corporate Law" while a Visiting Associate Professor at Brooklyn Law School this past Spring (2009) semester. 

We had a very good mix of students, ideologically speaking.  Pretty much every viewpoint, from right to left, was well and ably represented in the class.

One of the issues we covered in the seminar was "Religion and the Corporation."  Surprisingly, this was the only issue that the students reached a consensus on:  they pretty much all agreed that corporations should generally not adopt religious missions, and that those which did adopt such missions should certainly not enjoy anything analogous to the "free exercise rights" that individuals enjoy under the U.S. Constitution.

Driving this perspective on their part was the concern that a religiously motivated corporation, especially if endowed with constitutional rights to act upon such motivations, would trample employee freedoms and restrict consumer choice.  "Where would we get our contraceptives if the only pharmacy in town was run by a Catholic corporation?" was a repeatedly expressed concern.

Interestingly, the students also agreed that it would be quite all right for an unincorporated business -- such as a partnership or sole proprietorship -- to pursue a religious agenda.  Corporations were seen as simply different -- too powerful, too large, and too privileged under the law to permit a religious mission on their part.

I think there's a lot of grist for the mill here.  Getting back to David's original four questions, however, I think this implicates his fourth one:  what is the audience of "Christian Corporate Law"?  For there is certainly a fair bit of antipathy towards all things associated with religion these days.  I think there is a very real reason to be concerned that even some tremendously helpful insights brought to bear upon corporate law from a Christian or religious perspective might be rejected, or viewed askance, simply because of their religiously inspired origins -- despite whatever underlying merit they might contain.

PS:  As another follow-up to Christina's post, I refer all interested parties to Chick-fil-A, the corporate mission statement of which is: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us."

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