Acton Institute Powerblog

Conscientious Corporations: Should The Government Crack Down?

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Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are two companies with consciences. It is that sense of morality that has put both those companies before the Supreme Court right now. These companies, in accordance to their understanding of right and wrong, do not want to be forced (by government mandate) to pay for employees’ birth control and abortions.

Should the government have a say in a company’s conscience?

Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont-based ice cream makers, have a conscience. Their mission has three parts: product, economic and social. Their social mission reads:

Our Social Mission compels us to use our Company in innovative ways to make the world a better place. To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally.


iSanctuary is an organization that works with human trafficking victims in India and the United States. Their mission statement is,

To advocate for exploited people of the world, to educate the public about human trafficking and its prevention, and to be instrumental in providing survivors the means to be reintegrated as valued members of a community.

Trevor Burrus, in Forbes, says that allowing the government to pick and choose which corporations have “allowable” missions is dangerous. And if it isn’t happening to a company you care about today, it will soon.

Big and intrusive government threatens all types of rights of conscience. When government expands into new, values-laden areas, it is best to realize that while today it may be them, tomorrow it could be you. Those on the left who are opposing Hobby Lobby’s suit as an attempt to undercut women’s rights or as an attempt to let your boss choose your health care, should be thinking instead about the next big government mandate that could affect a business’s right of conscience that they actually care about.

Government intrusion in business is dangerous, and the cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods are about to set a precedent. Let us hope that the precedent is one that recognizes that all businesses have a conscience, and that is worth protecting. As Burrus says, “Rights of conscience are only protected if we protect all such rights, not just those we share. Conscientious corporations of all types should be championed and respected.”

Read “Of Course Corporations Like Hobby Lobby Have Rights Of Conscience, And You Probably Shop At One” at Forbes.com.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.

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