Yesterday a federal judge ruled that Hobby Lobby could not be exempt from the birth control mandate of the Affordable Health Care Law (a.k.a Obamacare). After an initial flurry of dissent from religious organizations, mainly Catholic, we saw the federal government quickly back peddle and declare that churches and religious organizations would be granted exemptions from the birth-control provisions of the new health care law. However, Hobby Lobby is not recognized by the government or the courts as a religious organization. It is a for profit business, obviously.
In September Hobby Lobby sued the federal government over the birth control portion of the health care mandate. David Green, CEO, contended that the provisions that force a company to provide certain kinds of birth control, such as the morning-after and week-after pills, violates his religious beliefs. In other words, Mr. Green believes the federal government shouldn't force him to pay for a practice that he considers immoral. Obviously, he believes that life begins at conception and that these early forms of induced abortion (mislabeled as birth control) are morally wrong.
The reason his request was denied by the federal judge was because there is no precedent of a business like Hobby Lobby having a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. I read one article that quoted a lawyer admitting that this area of legal argument was "uncharted waters." And indeed it is!
As the federal government becomes more intrusive (whether you see that as good or bad), these kind of conflicts over moral issues are going to continue to surface as genuinely motivated Christians push back against encroaching moral coercion, whether within a recognized "religious" or "secular" context. No doubt the two issues that will become flash points in the years ahead are abortion and homosexuality. The vast majority of Christians who attempt to live biblical lives, not merely "spiritual" lives, consider abortion and homosexual behavior wrong- plain and simple. However, our prevailing culture is attempting to shame those who hold to such values. If you are against abortion, then you are participating in a "war on women." If you dare assert that homosexual behavior is wrong, then you are castigated as an immoral bigot and intolerant and against civil rights for the LGBT community.
Businesses like Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby have already now surfaced as recent examples of the clash between our culture and Christianity. I think this is a trend that is going to continue. And it is not inconceivable that the day is coming when our lawmakers and our court systems will begin to impose the social consensus on such issues on religious organizations too.
David Green has stated that he will appeal the federal judge's decision. If appeal is denied, then Green has three options. He could choose civil disobedience and not comply with the mandate, in which Hobby Lobby would incur financial penalties imposed by the federal government. He could choose to close his successful business in order to avoid violating his conscience, consequently laying off all his employees. Or he can bow to the wishes of the government in spite of his moral objection based on his Christian convictions. None of these options are good, and all are being forced on him by our federal government. Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his grave even now!
Green stated, "we seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consisted with biblical principles." Apparently, this is getting harder to do in America, and it's going to get worse. I hope the church and American Christians, committed to biblical standards, are ready. The easy path will be to bow and blend. The difficult path will be to endure the shame and let our light shine.