March 25, 2014
Corporate Rights and Responsibilities
Posted by Ronald Colombo

I'd like to briefly address a point raised by both Marty and Brett: that of corporate obligations.

Marty points out that corporations "don’t have religious obligations."  But, as Brett points out, we do indeed expect our corporations to behave responsibly. 

Indeed, the entire corporate social responsibility movement is replete with morally laden rhetoric, suggesting that corporations have very real obligations to society as a whole -- and not just to their shareholders.

Once that bridge is crossed (and I think it has been), it becomes very difficult to deny the argument that for some corporations, these obligations might be religious in nature.  Just as a corporation that styles itself as environmentally friendly takes on, I would suggest, genuine moral obligations to be environmentally friendly, a corporation founded upon a particular set of religious values has a genuine moral obligation to remain true to those values.

And this implicates the perennial linkage of rights with responsibilities.  If a person (or entity) has a particular moral responsibility, he or she (or it) ought to have the rights necessary to discharge that responsibility.

Thus, to the dismay of pretty much everyone I know, I suggest that a corporation's rights and responsibilities ought to rise and fall in tandem.  If we're going to take CSR seriously, we need to take corporate First Amendment rights seriously as well (and vice versa). 


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