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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.

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69 thoughts on “Why You Should Care About the Hobby Lobby Case—And Be Alarmed”

  1. Kay Harris says:

    I absolutely agree with the stand that Hobby Lobby is taking. However, it is troubling to me that while the Greens are taking a stand against this healthcare mandate because it supports abortion in the U.S., they are supporting government supplied abortion in China with every “made in China” product that is sold in
    their stores…which is most of the store. Not just the Greens, but for all, including myself, who buy made in China goods…we are guilty!

  2. Ryan says:

    Kay, while I am sympathetic to the concern you raise about goods purchased from China, you may be overstating the case; if your logic holds, was Paul in error when he permitted Christians to purchase meat that had been sacrificed to idols? Did that constitute “supporting idol worship?”

  3. Mel says:

    Chinese people have to make a living too. Not to mention that it is the fastest growing area for Christianity. People with morals that boycott others to deny them a way to buy food doesn’t seem very moral.

  4. Vicki says:

    If people were really serious with the idea that preventing implantation of an egg is considered abortion, then all IUD medical devices (especially copper T) should also be considered abortion inducing medical devices. And there are women with epilepsy who depend on Copper T to prevent pregnancy without hormonal means. They have to face the medical risk that a hormonal pill would increase the frequency and size of their seizures. Also, if they get pregnant, they have a very high risk of having miscarriages that would risk their and their child’s life. So.. what would be the most ethical thing to do in this case?

  5. bruce says:

    You have a good analysis of the brief but your analysis overlooks the free exercise rights of a secular corporation itself. Secular corporations themselves should also have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. There’s no reason why a corporation should have to be non-profit and religious to have free exercise rights. That’s no where in the Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t enshrine second class and first class corporations when it comes to free exercise rights.

  6. Maggie says:

    Vicki- You’re right. Those of us who consider prevention of the implantation of a zygote (not egg) DO consider an IUD to be an abortion-inducing device. The ethical dilemma you posed has nothing to do with whether or not employers should be legally mandated to provide contraception and/or abortion-inducing drugs to their employees.

  7. nonnoon says:

    Romans 13:7
    Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

  8. chris says:

    in bonhoeffer’s day, the 1930’s, Germany’s jewish christians were told they were no longer considered christian. now our government determines which business’s are christian enough to be exempt from the hhs mandate on abortifacient medications.

  9. wonderful submit, very informative. I ponder why the opposite experts of this sector don’t understand this.
    You must proceed your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

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    I’mundoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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