March 25, 2014
The Ave Maria Mutual Funds
Posted by Ronald Colombo

Jennifer kicks off her last post by asking whether a mutual fund can have a religion.  I would ask that in response to that interesting question, we consider the example of the Ave Maria Mutual Funds.

Calling itself "America’s Largest Family of Catholic Mutual Funds," the Ave Maria Mutual Funds represent just one of many mutual funds that cater to socially responsible investors. 

In addition to seeking a return on investment, the Ave Maria Mutual Funds employ a "Catholic Advisory Board" which "is loyal to the Magisterium of the Church [and] sets the criteria for screening out companies based on religious principles. They actively seek the advice and counsel of Catholic clergy in making these determinations."

To me at least, the question of whether a mutual fund can have a religious identity seems moot.  Some already do.

And I see no reason why a business corporation couldn't just as explicitly adopt a religious persona.  To be clear, that's not what Hobby Lobby and Conestoga have done.  And from my perspective, that is a factor that seriously undermines their claims.  As I suggested a few posts below, I do not believe that a corporation is necessarily the religion of its shareholders. Rather, a corporation's religion is the religion the corporation, as an enterprise, chooses to embrace: in its practices, policies, and, preferably, in its charter as well. 

All that said, in today's oral argument, the Court didn't seem particularly fixated on this particular issue.


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