Briefcase: First Amendment Rights of Businesses

An interview with guest James Nelson


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The First Amendment gives all of us fundamental rights, but do these rights extend to for-profit businesses? Assistant Professor James Nelson, who teaches corporate law at the University of Houston Law Center, has written about this topic.

"Courts have said that businesses have free speech rights and that at least some businesses have rights of religious liberty," Nelson said. "But they have also said that businesses do not have first amendment rights to discriminate against individuals in violation of the law."

But when it comes to non-profit organizations, it's a little different. "Non-profits have free speech and religious liberty rights, as well. But certain non-profits may also have first amendment rights to exclude people who are protected by antidiscrimination law," Nelson said. "So, for example, the first amendment might allow a non-profit youth organization to expel one of its leaders based on their sexual orientation, while a for-profit business that sells children's clothing cannot engage in that kind of discrimination."