If a Company Can Be African American, Why Can’t It Be Religious?
Religion & Liberty Online

If a Company Can Be African American, Why Can’t It Be Religious?

What race is your company? Asian, Samoan, American Indian, other?

If you find that question absurdhardhat you probably haven’t heard (I hadn’t) that a for-profit can be be African American — an African American person — under federal law.

According to Matt Bowman, that was the  overwhelming consensus view by an Obama appointee to the Fourth Circuit court of appeals. The ruling allows minority-owned companies to object to racial discrimination committed against them under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Bowman explains that in Carnell Construction Corporation v. Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, an African-American-owned for-profit construction company in Virginia accused a local government—which had awarded the company a federally subsidized building contract—of racial discrimination during the building project.

Carnell Construction’s African-American owner did not personally bid on the contract. That was all done in the name of the company. Therefore, the court had to consider whether a for-profit corporation can be a racially identified “person” who may legally bring a “discrimination” charge before the court.

The court emphatically said yes, citing two reasons that may begin to sound familiar to those of you who know the arguments in Conestoga and Hobby Lobby.

First, the court reached the commonsense conclusion that a closely held for-profit corporation is an enterprise undertaken by a group of people. Those people have characteristics, such as race, that they bring to work every day and can’t leave at home. If discrimination occurs due to the owner’s race, the Title VI ban on discrimination is implicated even though the company is the technical victim of that discrimination.

“Several other federal appellate courts” agree on this, the Fourth Circuit noted. It quoted the federal appeals court in New York as correctly saying it would be “hard to believe” that discrimination could be allowed to occur against a company because of the race, color, or national origin of the owner, and yet no one could sue—not the owners, because they aren’t parties to the contract, and not the corporation, because it is a corporation.

If corporations can have a race and exercise the “right” to abortion and privacy, Bowman ask, then why can’t they be religious? Why the dual standard that discriminates against the religious?

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).