On March 25, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a case that will set an important precedent regarding the exercise of religious freedom in our country. An opinion is expected to be rendered by the end of June.
By bringing his case to the Supreme Court, Steve Green, President of Hobby Lobby, is asking a question that has widespread ramifications: “Are [people in America that have a business] able to operate that business according to their deeply held religious beliefs?”
If the Justices rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor, then the answer is yes. Organizations will be able to abide by their faith commitments and deny health coverage of abortive drugs, which cause the death of human embryos.
If the Justices rule in favor of the Department of Health and Human Services, then the answer is no. Business owners will be prevented from following their consciences and forced to follow the rules of ObamaCare instead.
This particular Supreme Court ruling will have an impact not only on Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties — the two parties in this case — but also on other organizations (nonprofit and for-profit) that are Christ-centered and engage in faith-driven activities, including humanitarian relief, community development, and apologetics training.
For this reason, Summit Ministries has joined 23 other Christian ministries in filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court, opposing the contraception mandate under the health-care-reform law. All organizations in this brief (including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Compassion International, and The Navigators) have similar views on abortion-inducing drugs and would be adversely affected if compelled by the government to act in a way contrary to their stated faith commitments.
The following are excerpts of the amicus brief joined by Summit:
“Religious liberty in this country reflects, among other things, the twin propositions that duty to God transcends duty to society, and that true religious faith cannot be coerced. James Madison captured these propositions in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments:
“‘It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe. … ’
“Because individuals possess an inalienable right and duty to worship God as they deem best, government can have no authority over religious exercise as such. Put differently, civil government is not the highest authority in human affairs.” (14-15)
“[T]he reasoning underlying the Secretary’s proposed blanket rule — that persons cannot at the same time engage in commercial activity and exercise religion — imposes a government-defined orthodoxy that improperly bifurcates the religious and the secular. Government officials have no constitutional competence or authority to navigate this line based on perceived religious content. And by recognizing religious exercise only at the margins of civil society, the Secretary’s position disregards the myriad ways in which religious beliefs relate to virtually all aspects of life.” (21-22)
“The Secretary also asserts, as if it were an axiom, that because for-profit corporations engage in commercial activities, they cannot at the same time exercise religion. This assertion entirely fails to comprehend the extent to which religion may direct the conduct of activities and the diversity of religious exercise.” (31)
One of the main features of Summit’s teaching is that the Lordship of Christ applies to every area of life. The biblical worldview — the picture of reality that is set forth in the pages of scripture — requires that we act in accordance with truth in every place and at all times.
We believe that the law of the omnipresent God is itself omnipresent, requiring us to abide by its commands whether we are in the privacy of our homes or in the public square. There are no spatial constraints to the moral law, which is written on our hearts and to which we are all accountable. By forcing religious believers — whether individuals or business owners — to act in opposition to the moral law, the U.S. government is violating both the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
It is our prayer that the Supreme Court preserves religious liberty — our first freedom — by ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby.