In the eagerly awaited Supreme Court ruling on Monday, a 5-4 decision was handed down in favor of Religious Freedom for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. Here are some of the highlights and summary points.
The Supreme Court ruled against the coercive Obamacare HHS mandate, prohibiting the government from forcing two family businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, to provide coverage of potentially life-ending drugs and devices. The Court held that the HHS mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as it applied in this case.
But first I want to draw your attention to the narrative that is occurring in much of the media coverage. Contrary to what you might hear, this ruling was not against women. It was for the religious liberty of us all. And that distinction matters greatly. This case was never really about contraception.
Summary of the Hobby Lobby Argument
Dr. Robert George (McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University) summarizes:
Hobby Lobby and the Greens, represented by attorneys from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (full disclosure: I am a member of its board of directors and executive committee), argued that the abortifacient mandates (1) substantially burden the practice of their faith; (2) are not supported by a compelling interest; and (3) do not represent the least restrictive means of pursuing the government’s objective of supplying these products to women. The Obama administration contested these claims and denied that RFRA protections apply at all to for-profit businesses (as opposed to religious organizations). (read the rest of the article at First Things here)
This is a Win for Everyone
Dr. Russell Moore (president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) shared:
This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets for joy. The Supreme Court just handed down the Hobby Lobby case, and ruled that the government cannot force closely-held corporations to violate their religious beliefs in the purchasing of abortion-causing drugs.
The ruling isn’t just a win for evangelicals, like the Southern Baptist Greens. It’s a win for everyone. Here’s why. A government that can pave over the consciences of the Greens can steamroll over any dissent anywhere. Whether you agree or disagree with us about abortion, every American should want to see a government that is not powerful enough to set itself up as a god over the conscience.
As Christians, we believe in obeying the law and honoring our government authorities (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-17). But Jesus taught us to render unto Caesar what belongs to him, and to God what belongs to him. Our consciences are not held in a blind trust when we leave our church buildings on Sunday.
A War on Women?
Regarding the “war on women” meme making its rounds, Chelsen Vicari helpfully shares:
If there is such a thing as a “war on women,” it is being launched by “progressives” who view women’s worth according to how much free birth control we attain. Thankfully, our value extends beyond our ability to “family plan.” Women are hardworking, witty, caring and intelligent beings made in the image of our Creator, who calls us to live by faith beyond our sanctuary walls. (read the rest of the article here)
Christians Can and Should Both Proclaim the Gospel and Seek Religious Liberty
Again, Moore’s comments are helpful as he highlights the Apostle Paul’s integrated approach:
This is not just a political issue. The Apostle Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship when he was charged with disrupting the peace. All the way through the appeals process, he not only plead for his freedom, but he also preached the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 25-26). We should do so as well. But that means teaching the next generation that following Christ will be costly, and that they will be often viewed as strange and even subversive by a culture in which sexual liberation is the highest god in the pantheon. A discount-rate prosperity gospel will not supply such grit. The gospel of Jesus Christ will.
So let’s celebrate today. And then let’s remember that we prize religious liberty not preeminently because it keeps us out of jail. We prize religious liberty because we believe there is a court higher than the Supreme Court. No government bureaucrat will stand with us before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and thus no bureaucrat should seek to lord over the conscience.
Let’s remember the words of the Apostle Peter: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a coverup for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2:16). Let’s fight for religious freedom, for everybody. And let’s preach the gospel with power. We must be about both: persuasive proclamation and the guarding of the freedom to disagree with us. That’s what Jesus taught us. So let’s hold onto freedom and let’s pray, for liberty and Jesus for all. (read the rest of Moore’s article here)
You have no doubt heard of this acronym (RFRA – Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) so central to this case, but what is RFRA?
The bottom line is that Christians need to continue to be thoughtful, winsome, and courageous to engage issues that matter for everyone as Image Bearers. It is hard to find a more important idea to defend than religious freedom for all.
More Resources on Religious Liberty