The Obama administration is being handed a lesson in Christianity 101 as religious leaders rise up to condemn an Obamacare requirement that forces religious organizations to pay for abortifacients or face crippling financial penalties.
“Christian doctrine states it is a sin for a Christian to enable or aid another in doing what the Christian believes to be sin,” states a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by a coalition of dozens of prominent Protestant theologians, African-American pastors and participants in the Manhattan Declaration.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed over the requirement in the Affordable Health Care Act that employers pay for abortifacents. Two cases, involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, are pending for review before the Supreme Court.
Even members of Congress have weighed in against the provision, which effectively forces Christians to violate their faith by participating in the killing of unborn children.
A brief submitted by the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, which was joined by Rick Warren, Wayne Grudem, Bishop Harry Jackson, Ravi Zacharias and dozens more, explains that Christian doctrine governs a person’s life, not just a behavior during a short time at church on Sundays.
It also contends Obamacare “substantially burdens” the free exercise of religion.
“This case throws into sharp relief the problems that can arise when the Christian doctrine of work is not properly understood,” sand IFWE Executive Director Hugh Whelchel. “We as Christians cannot compartmentalize our faith from the work we do every day, whether we’re a pastor, a plumber, or business leader. The Bible teaches that all of life is integrated and matters to God. This fundamental doctrine needs to be preached more often in our churches as well as understood in our courts.”
Signing on were the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Coalition of African American Pastors, members of the Manhattan Declaration, which has been signed by more than 150 American religious leaders and more than 540,000 lay Christians, InStep International and a long list of prominent leaders including Phoenix Seminary Professor Wayne Grudem, Veritas Evangelical Seminary President Joseph Holden, Hope Christian Church Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren and Zacharias, founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
They noted the government already has admitted the demand is a “substantial burden” because it set up exemptions “for other religious groups cornered into making this choice.”
Christian doctrine, the group explained, “requires a Christian worker or business owner to conduct his business in line with his beliefs.” The leaders also argue the state has no right “to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind.”
It was American Puritan minister Cotton Mather who wrote, “When you handle the plough, or handle the axe, or use either nerves or brains in your occupation, and whatsoever ye do, you may do all for the Lord Jesus Christ,” the brief notes.
And Puritan clergyman William Law, said, “Worldly business is to be made holy unto the Lord, by being done as a service to Him, and in conformity to His divine will.”
Others joining the effort include Liberty Counsel, whose founder, Mat Staver, said, “Ignoring the free exercise rights, the Obama administration has enacted regulations that compel employers to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs or face enormous fines.”
His group filed the first private lawsuit against Obamacare on behalf of Liberty University, the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
“Subjecting employers to such extortion is antithetical to the free exercise protections recognized by the First Amendment,” Staver said.
Liberty Counsel’s brief said, “At issue in this case is a conflict between the fundamental right to free exercise of religion upon which this country was founded and the intrusive governmental regulation.”
Christians face no reasonable choice under Obamacare, the brief said.
“The only escape for employers is to go out of business, thereby denying their employees not only health insurance benefits, but also their jobs.”
Such “extortion,” the brief said, “is antithetical to both the First Amendment and to the free exercise protections that Congress re-affirmed in [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”
“The administration exceeded its authority when it ignored Congress’ direction and enacted a perpetual mandate that forces employers to either abandon religious principles or shutter their businesses,” the brief said.
The American Freedom Law Center, on behalf of several businesses, is arguing: “[In] the situation confronted by the challengers here, private citizens seek to operate their company or organization in accord with the tenets of their faith. Permitting the government to impose this unconscionable mandate on businesses and nonprofit organizations will effectively exclude faith-conscious owners and directors from participating in business affairs and public life – a result squarely at odds with the First Amendment and the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”
Robert Muise, AFLC co-founder, said: “Contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients are all instruments of the culture of death, and their use can never be approved, endorsed, facilitated, promoted, or supported in any way. By forcing Hobby Lobby and other businesses to comply with the mandate under penalty of federal law, President Obama and his legion of secular progressives are trampling all over religious freedom and the right of conscience, which are protected by the First Amendment and RFRA.”
AFLC Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi said: “The Bill of Rights protects religious beliefs and the rights of conscience that flow from those beliefs. These rights are not subject to arbitrary government power or societal preferences. Consequently, the Supreme Court should uphold this fundamental freedom against President Obama’s unconscionable and unlawful mandate.”
Yet another brief represents members of Congress.
The document, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, argues the Obama administration simply is out of bounds.
“It’s unfortunate but not surprising that the Obama administration continues to trample on the religious freedoms Americans hold dear, and the contraceptive mandate is a sad example of that,” Hatch said. “Just last week the Supreme Court ruled that some religious organizations are exempt from the mandate, but why not all? Religious freedom should not be a political issue. It is one of our country’s founding principles, and I’m hopeful that the Supreme Court will reconfirm that our country will not stand for forcing one’s beliefs onto others who may morally object to them.”
The brief contends: “The government’s refusal to apply RFRA throughout the administrative process has resulted in a mandate that violates RFRA and turns the law of religious freedom upside down. RFRA places a heavy burden on the government and protects religion by default. But the [Health and Human Services] mandate places a heavy burden on religion and protects the government by default.”
Also signing were Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Pat Roberts, R-Kans., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Lamar Smith of Texas, Chris Smith of New Jersey and Frank Wolf of Virginia.
They argue: “RFRA is a ‘super-statute’ that cuts across the entire U.S. Code and applies a single, religion-protective principle for evaluating all actions of the federal government that substantially burden the exercise of religion. Congress can displace RFRA’s protection through ordinary legislation; but Congress did not do so in [Obamacare]. Unless and until Congress instructs otherwise, RFRA requires strict scrutiny any time the government substantially burdens any person’s exercise of religion.”
Among the dozens of briefs filed on behalf of Christians, others have been compiled by 107 members of Congress, 15 original signers of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bipartisan coalition of 85 members of Congress, 20 states and law professors, including Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School, Robert George of Princeton, Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School, Rick Garnett of Notre Dame Law School, Steven Smith of the University of San Diego Law School, Nathan Chapman of University of Georgia Law School and Michael Moreland of Villanova Law School.
Also, briefs have been filed by dozens of Catholic theologians and ethicists, several women’s organizations, six medical groups, the Orthodox Union, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a Santeria church, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a halal food company, Christian book publishers and the Anglican Church in North America.
Also filing was the Family Research Council, which was targeted with violence by a homosexual activist who picked the Christian group after it was labeled as a “hate” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Erik Jaffe, past chairman of the executive committee of the Free Speech and Election Law Practice Group of the Federalist Society, wrote the brief for the FRC, explaining: “Religious exercise is not confined to the home, to church, or to non-profit activities with expressly religious purposes. Rather, it can be present in all aspects of living one’s life faithfully, including the commercial aspects of life. The decision of the businesses in this case to adhere to, and affirmatively advance, the religious principles of their owners and themselves in the operation of their businesses reflects long-held religious tenets regarding the interaction between faith and work.”
FRC President Tony Perkins said: “The freedom of religion is the ability to live your life according to the religious teachings of your choice. However, President Obama has repeatedly expressed his support for the freedom of worship, not the freedom of religion. His HHS mandate is a byproduct of his truncated view of religious liberty and the First Amendment.
“It is a long-held American tradition that we respect people’s freedom of conscience. We have never forced Americans who stand up for their conscience to choose between paying crippling fines that could shut down their business or dropping the healthcare of all their employees. President Obama’s HHS mandate forces individuals and businesses to violate their moral beliefs just to hold a job, own a business, or have health insurance. Mr. President, this is unacceptable.”
The Thomas More Law Center described Obama’s work as “an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.”
“This case is not about competing rights; there is only one right at issue here − the right to religious freedom,” the brief explains.
It aruges there is no constitutional right to “free” contraception or abortion. Moreover, it says: “The employers are not objecting to their employees’ private decision to use these drugs, they are objecting to being forced by the government to pay for insurance plans that facilitate or contribute to these decisions. The employers object to being used to further a government objective that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Richard Thompson, the chief counsel for the law center, warned: “The religious liberty of every American is at stake. If we lose these cases, the guarantee of religious liberty under our constitution and laws becomes a farce.”
In the minority on the other side was Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wa.
She said a “woman’s right to access free or low-cost contraception under the Affordable Care Act” trumps anyone else’s religious freedom.
The Supreme Court said in November the justices would take up the issue, which has divided the lower courts. Arguments are expected over the next several months, with a decision later this year.
The Becket Fund, which is representing Hobby Lobby, said nearly 90 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed, with two-thirds supporting the Hobby Lobby position.