The facts are well known: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) requires employers to provide insurance for their employees. As part of the mandated health coverage, businesses must include contraceptives and abortifacient drugs in their insurance plans. Hobby Lobby, owned by the Green family (strong Christians and generous philanthropists), is refusing to comply with the HHS mandate, believing that the government is requiring what is unethical and infringing upon their religious liberty. Perhaps it is tragically fitting that Justice Sotomayor denied Hobby Lobby judicial relief on December 26—St. Stephen’s Day, the day the church remembers its first martyr.
Millions of Americans are already outraged. And rightly so. Our government not only allows for abortion, and celebrates abortion rights, and wants women to have unfettered access to abortion on demand, it now requires other Americans to pay for abortion-inducing drugs or face crippling fines. It is not an endorsement of any political party to conclude that this policy is morally degenerate. More Americans should be alarmed than are already.
The Department of Justice’s brief filed in October makes a number of arguments (in opposition to the Greens) which bear closer scrutiny and ought to arouse no small degree of concern. I’m no legal scholar, but as a Christian citizen and an American worried about our liberties, I would ask questions like these:
- The brief argues that as a secular corporation Hobby Lobby does not receive the same protection to freely exercise religion—but what of the rights of the individuals who own and operate the company?
- The brief argues that “any burden caused by the regulations is simply too attenuated to qualify as a substantial burden”—but can the government now determine which burdens on the conscience are “substantial” and how does it plan to make these determinations?
- The brief argues that the health care regulation “serves two compelling governmental interests: improving the health of women and children, and equalizing the provision of recommended preventive care for women and men”—but on what grounds can the termination of fetal life be construed as “improving the health” of it?
- The brief asserts that “The Free Exercise Clause does not prohibit a law that is neutral and generally applicable even if the law prescribes conduct that an individual’s religion proscribes”—but how is the contraceptive mandate “neutral” when the largest religious body in the country (the Catholic Church) opposes contraception outright and tens of millions of evangelical Christians believe the mandate violates their religious convictions relative to abortion?
- The brief argues that “the Court should not permit the Greens to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees”—but by what logic is the failure to provide “preventive care” by a private company the imposition of religious belief and the mandating of it by the state it is not?
I’m a pastor, not a lawyer, justice, or politician. But let us pray for all of the above, that they may do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Religious liberty is a precious gift we think too little of, and we will miss it sorely when it’s gone.