“Can a For-Profit, Secular Corporate Employer Exercise Religion?”
May a for-profit, secular corporation challenge a government regulation on the grounds that its application violates the corporation’s rights under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the Free Exercise Clause) or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act(the RFRA)? The United States Circuit Courts of Appeals that have considered the merits of this issue have split, with the Third and Sixth Circuits holding that a for-profit, secular corporation cannot engage in religious exercise, defeating both claims. The Tenth Circuit, by contrast, held that a corporation has a right to free exercise of religion, regardless of whether or not it operates for profit and, therefore, can bring a claim under the RFRA. The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that while a secular organization cannot exercise religion, its owners have standing to bring a claim under the RFRA if a regulation applicable to the organization imposes a substantial burden on their Free Exercise rights.