My Christian faith, Religious freedom and Business


Christian beliefs and the law

I became a Christian when I was 16 years old. The Christian faith is central to my life and shapes the values, ideas and solutions that inform my academic work. Here’s the story of

Why I became a Christian and how it influences me.

I draw upon my Christian faith in seeking solutions to real-world legal problems. Central to my beliefs are that man in made in the image of God, life, dignity and beauty all flow from this. Law should therefore should allow and encourage human flourishing, the ability of all to achieve their God-given potential. However, as a Christian I also believe that mankind is fallen, sinful, driven by selfish and often destructive motives and capable of very great harm, even evil. The role of law therefore also has to be protective to prevent abuse and exploitation of the powerful of the weak. It is because of my Christian faith that I am driven to the conclusion that small government is better than big government, that free markets are better than regulated markets, in the capacity of people to sort out their own problems within a protective, rather than a coercive, framework of general laws, within the rule of law.

Religious freedom

There are many aspects of religious freedom which cause concern. At an international level, Open Doors described 2015 as a “year of fear” for Christians with over 7,000 Christians killed for faith related reasons, an estimate not including those killed in North Korea, Syria and Iraq (Open Doors World Watch List, 2016). Within the UK, my concern is primarily with the following issues:

  • Restrictions on the formation and growth of Christian businesses;
  • Religious conflicts of interests arising with UK inward investment;
  • Obstacles to communication and dialogue involving the Christian faith;
  • Judicial insensitivity towards the Christian faith.

I recently addressed the issues affecting Christian businesses in The Religious Freedom of Corporations presented to the Centre for Law and Culture (St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London 2016) and in Liberty, Rights and the Rule of Law: Protecting Freedom of Religion in Business from State Coercion at an Economics and International Development seminar at Buckingham University (Buckingham University, Buckingham, 2016).

Christian research and business

Much of my research from a Christian perspective has been about the limited liability company, which has been subject to many criticisms based on moral grounds. The company has been criticised for infringing a moral principle as to personal responsibility for debt; encouraging undue risk-taking at creditors’ expense; enabling shareholders to escape tort liabilities and facilitating the growth of excessively large and therefore unaccountable businesses. Against this are the tremendous economic advantages that companies bring and their contribution globally to the reduction of poverty. I’ve explored these ideas in 2012 in an interesting debate which commenced with a paper Why the Limited Company Works (And Sometimes Doesn’t): Economic and Theological Perspectives delivered at the Association of Christian Economists Annual Study Group Meeting at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University. The subsequent debate took the form of the Association of Christian Economists Discussion Papers 006 Stephen Copp, A Theology of Incorporation with Limited Liability, including Reflections on Methodology; 007 Richard Higginson, A Response to Stephen Copp; 008 Clive Beed and Cara Beed, Biblical Principles Antipathetic to the Joint Stock Company; and 009 Stephen Copp, A Theology of Incorporation with Limited Liability Reaffirmed and can be found at www.christian-economists.org.uk/publications.html

Books, book contributions and conference proceedings

Copp, S.F. (2001) The Law and Christian Ethics in Business. This was first published in The Law and Christian Ethics on behalf of The Church of Scotland Board of Social Responsibility (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press) pp. 36 – 75 [ISBN 0 86153 310 0]

Copp, S.F. (2000) Developing a Relationally Based Law of Contract – a Question of Good Faith? in Christian Perspectives on Law and Relationism eds. Beaumont, P. & K. Wotherspoon (Carlisle: Paternoster Press) pp. 53 – 92 [ISBN 0-85364-994-4]

Copp, S.F. (1998) A Christian Vision for Corporate Governance. This was first published as Chapter 5 in Christian Perspectives on Law Reform ed. Beaumont, P. (Carlisle: Paternoster Press) pp. 105 – 154 [ISBN 0-85364-852-2]

Articles and published letters

Copp, S.F. (2011) A Theology of Incorporation with Limited Liability 14(1) Journal of Markets & Morality 35 – 57 [ISSN 1098 – 1217]; see also The Association of Christian Economists Discussion Papers 006 Stephen Copp, A Theology of Incorporation with Limited Liability, including Reflections on Methodology; 007 Richard Higginson, A Response to Stephen Copp; 008 Clive Beed and Cara Beed, Biblical Principles Antipathetic to the Joint Stock Company; and 009 Stephen Copp, A Theology of Incorporation with Limited Liability Reaffirmed at http://www.christian-economists.org.uk/journal.htm [ISSN 2044-8635].

Copp, S.F. (2005) Sex, Lies and Corporate Governance Accountancy, April, p. 27 [ISSN 0001-4664]

Copp, S.F. (2005) Power vs Accountability: What Can Good Corporate Governance Teach the Church? 9 Faith in Business Quarterly, pp. 11 – 18 [ISSN 1369-653X]

Copp, S.F. (2002) Company law and alternative dispute resolution: an economic analysis This article was first published in (2002) 23 The Company Lawyer 361 – 375 by Sweet & Maxwell. [ISSN: 0144-1027]

Copp, S.F. (2002) C.S. Lewis’s Concept of the Inner Ring and the Problem of Evil in Corporate Governance 6 Faith in Business Quarterly 3 – 7 [ISSN 1369-653X]

Copp, S.F. (2002) The Enron Scandal 6(1) Faith in Business Quarterly 8 – 13 [ISSN 1369-653X]

Copp, S.F. & N. Astbury (2000) ADR and Shareholder Disputes – An Alternative to Using s. 459 CA 1985 1 Journal of ADR, Mediation and Negotiation 51 – 68 [ISSN 1470-6717]

Academic conference, professional education and workshop papers

Copp, S.F. (2016) Liberty, Rights and the Rule of Law: Protecting Freedom of Religion in Business from State Coercion presented at an Economics and International Development seminar at Buckingham University (Buckingham University, Buckingham, 2016)

Copp, S.F. (2016) The Religious Freedom of Corporations presented to the Centre for Law and Culture (St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London)

Copp, S.F. (2012) Why the Limited Company Works (And Sometimes Doesn’t): Economic and Theological Perspectives delivered at the Association of Christian Economists Annual Study Group Meeting (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University)

Copp, S.F. (2011) The Case for (More) Free Trade delivered as part of a debate on Fair Trade or Free Trade organised by the Bournemouth University Chaplaincy with the alternative case presented by Simon Giarchi of CAFOD (Student Centre, Bournemouth University)

Copp, S.F. (2004) The Origins of Limited Liability in England and Wales Revisited delivered to the Relational Finance Group (Linklaters, Solicitors, London) Abstract

Copp, S.F. (2002) The Harmonisation of EU Law Affecting Companies and Not-For-Profit Organisations: Implications For Religious Associations delivered at the Conference on Structured Pluralism: A Practical Legal Framework for Faith in the European Union organised by Newcastle University Law School and the Jean Monnet Centre, Department of Politics, Newcastle University in conjunction with the Centre for Law and Religion, University of Cardiff and the Group of Policy Advisors to the President of the European Commission (Newcastle University) Abstract

Copp, S.F. (2002) Enron: Markets & Morality, delivered at a discussion hosted by the School of Finance and Law and the Chaplaincy, Bournemouth University (Bournemouth University)

Copp, S.F. (2002) Director/ Shareholder Relations at the CLT Conference on Shares and Shareholders (Posthouse Kensington, London)

Copp, S.F. (2002) Directors in the Family Company delivered at the CLT Company Law Conference on Directors’ Duties and Liabilities (Mayfair Conference Centre, London)

Copp, S.F. (2002) Director/ Shareholder Relations delivered at the CLT Company Law Conference on Company Law for In-house Lawyers (Cafe Royal, London)

Copp, S.F. (2001) Law, Economics and Justice, delivered at the LCF Academic Conference on Christian Perspectives on Law and Justice (Nottingham University) Abstract

Copp, S.F. (2001) ADR and Company Law: An Economic Analysis, delivered as part of The Company Lawyer series at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (London)

Copp, S.F. (2000) The Law and Christian Ethics in Business, delivered at a public lecture at the Martin Hall, Edinburgh University, at the invitation of the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of Scotland, organised in partnership with the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, Edinburgh University (Edinburgh)

Maughan, C.W. & S.F. Copp (2000) Economic Efficiency, The Role of Law, and the Old Testament, delivered at the Center for Rationality and Interactive Decision Theory, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel at the International Conference on Biblical Economics (Jerusalem, Israel)

Copp, S.F. (1999) Developing a Relationally Based Law of Contract – a Question of Good Faith? delivered at the Relationships and Justice Conference sponsored by the LCF and the Jubilee Centre (Law Society, London)

Copp, S.F. (1999) A Vision For Corporate Governance delivered at the IIR Ltd conference on Corporate Governance in Practice, The Changing Relationship Between The Institutional Investor & Corporates (London)

Copp, S.F. (1998) Developing a Relationally Based Law of Contract – a Question of Good Faith? delivered at the LCF Academic Conference on Law and Relationism (Aberdeen University, Aberdeen)

Copp, S.F. (1996) Religious Freedom in Worship and Evangelism delivered (by invitation) at a workshop on Religious Liberties in the United Kingdom, hosted by the Rutherford Institute (London)

Copp, S.F. (1996) A Christian Vision for Corporate Governance delivered at the LCF Academic Conference on Christian Perspectives on Law Reform (London)

Book reviews

Copp, S.F. (2009) Christian Theology and Market Economics ed. Harper, I.R. & S. Gregg Economic Affairs Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 105 – 106 [ISSN 0265-0665]

Copp, S.F. (2007) Catholic Social Teaching and the Market Economy ed. Booth, P. 11(1) Faith in Business Quarterly 16 – 18

Copp, S.F. (1999) The Concept of Commitment in Law and Legal Science by Watkin, T. in Christian Perspectives on Human Rights and Legal Philosophy ed. Beaumont, P. 54 Fulchrum 13