Corporations (First Amendment Rights)
Corporate speech refers to the rights of corporations to advertise their products and to speak to matters of public concern.
Commercial speech, as manifested through advertising, and political speech in the form of contributions and expenditures on behalf of candidates and political issues must be considered in assessing whether a corporation has the same rights under the First Amendment as people.
Regulation of commercial speech must survive intermediate scrutiny to pass constitutional muster, but political speech of a corporation must survive strict scrutiny.
Following are Supreme Court cases involving corporate speech and the First Amendment.
McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) upheld major provisions of
the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, rejecting claims that the act
stifled First Amendment rights.
Nike v. Kasky (2003) raised, but did not resolve, contemporary issues
regarding First Amendment protection for corporate speech in matters of
Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014) said the government could not
require corporations to provide coverage for contraceptives that violated
the owners’ religious beliefs.
In a landmark 2010 decision, a divided Supreme Court used the First
Amendment to invalidate a campaign regulation that banned corporate and
union spending in political elections.
Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) upheld against a First
Amendment challenge a law prohibiting nonprofit corporations from using
general revenues for politics.
FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life (1986) found that while a nonprofit
corporation violated the Federal Election Campaign Act, its application
violated the First Amendment.
Zubik v. Burwell (2016) dealt with regulations requiring employers to
provide contraception coverage to their employees and how these regulations
affected religious liberty rights.
The Supreme Court in 1982 declined to rule that religious liberty
guaranteed in the First Amendment allowed an Amish farmer to not pay Social
Security taxes on behalf of his workers because of his religious beliefs.
In United States v. Lee, the Court ruled it would be problematic to create
a religious liberty exception for taxes.
Prudential Insurance Co. of America v. Cheek (1922) gives a glimpse into
First Amendment doctrine prior to the incorporation of the free speech
clause to the states.
National Labor Relations Board v. Virginia Electric and Power (1941)
examined if illegal activity can be shown on the basis of words otherwise
protected by the First Amendment.