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HB 1220: Religious Freedom Bill Commits Heresy with Corporate Personhood

Last updated on 2019.05.03

The sponsors of South Dakota's latest "No Wedding Cakes for Gays!" will tell you they are trying to defend religion from... well, you know, gay people. Unfortunately, these legislators don't realize the damage the language of their own bill does to religion and humanity.

House Bill 1220 defines "person" as "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious institution, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity." That's the standard legalese we get from the Supreme Court, Mitt Romney, and other corporate fascists who insist that corporations are people.

Treating non-personal entities as persons can serve legal and practical purposes, but not Christian purposes. Saying that a corporation, estate, or foundation can believe in God (can Citibank take communion? can Radio Shack get last rites?) is logically absurd. Pastor Tim Suttle says calling things people is downright heretical:

Personhood is sacred. A corporation isn’t a person, it’s a thing. It shouldn’t be treated like a person. Any society that calls a corporation–an entity that exists with the sole purpose of profit–a person, is devaluing what it means to be human. That’s not just an ethical issue, this is deep down in the faith of the Christian, and our experience of what it means to be a human [Tim Suttle, "Corporations Aren’t People, Money Isn’t Speech: Citizens United & the Heresy of Corporate Personhood," Patheos: Paperback Theology, 2014.09.20].

We understand, HB 1220 sponsors, that you want to treat certain people as somewhat less than people. But your bill as written, embracing the secular claim that corporations are people, makes all of us less human.


  1. Douglas Wiken 2015.02.06

    I squandered a few dollars on the New Yorker annual cartoons book. I think we got most of our money back in belly laughs.

    One of the cartoons had two politicians walking with US Capitol in back. One asks something like, "How much speech have you collected this term?"

    And just for the hell of it: The last cartoon in the book shows Adam and Eve naked in a tight embrace. The snake with the apple is near them. Adam says, " We decided to start without the apple."

    Meanwhile in SD, our legislature and governor are purveying snake oil.

  2. mhs 2015.02.06

    Corporations: Lutheran Social Services, Luther Seminary, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Diocese of SouthDakota, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wisconsin Lutheran Synod, Sioux Falls Ministry Center, Islamic Center of Sioux Falls, All Nations City Church, The Luke Society, the Banquet, et al and on and on.

    Can't believe in God? True, but . . . ? Sole purpose is profit? Not by a longshot.

    The problem with quoting absolutist statements is that they sound good, but, usually weaken an otherwise very sound argument.

    Should churches be allowed to exclude those of different faith who want to join only to convert the church corporation to a different faith? How's that for a Supreme Court case?

    This is a vastly, vastly complex topic that doesn't lend itself to pithy arguments like Pastor Suttle's.

  3. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.06

    Where do we find Citibank's soul? (I know. That question is hilarious on several levels.) How does MDU take communion? Via Darth Cheney's "rectal feeding?"

    So the local payday lender and a fetus are equal in terms of personhood? There goes another anti-abortion argument down the drain.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2015.02.06

    American people pay taxes.

    American corporations don't pay taxes

  5. CLCJM 2015.02.07

    Deb and Roger, love your arguments! This is such a sick distortion of what a person is and what Christianity is that it is unfathomable how they could even pplace this bill for consideration!

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.07

    Thanks CLCJM. Roger, your comment is on the nose too.

  7. CLCJM 2015.02.07

    I went to a Legislative Coffee this AM and someone (I'd have to check my notres) said that with this law, anybody could justify just about anything by invoking their "sincerely held religious beliefs." It was even brought up that female genital mutilation could be justified under this! They have no clue what a can of worms they're opening up just to prove what 'Christians" they are!

  8. Tim 2015.02.07

    I don't do religion, anybody that reads me here knows how I feel, if I did do religion I would have a hard time believing this is what God had in mind. I sent this to my brother, he is the lead pastor at a very large church on the east coast, he tried to explain to me that this is just the opposite of what his God intended. He knows where I stand on such issues and never tries to convert me so I take his word on it, not these wanna be's with a perverted sense of what religion is.

  9. leslie 2015.02.07

    i know sister state (3 mill souls) ole' miss has a constitution that limits office holders to believers.

    they may consider medicaid expansion, what w/ congress members switching to democrat

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