Words fail to describe my awe for the actions of Catholics and others in the Christian Defense Coalition. They traveled to Washington D.C. the last weekend in September to kneel down on the sidewalk outside the White House and pray while holding pro-life signs protesting President Obama’s pro-abortion HHS mandate.
They knew they would be arrested for stopping to pray. Prayer is not outlawed. Protest is not outlawed. Stopping in front of the White House during a protest is against the law.
They went to protest the HHS mandate of Obamacare. They protested its infringement on religious freedoms and its impact on the unborn.
I am deeply impressed with Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, College of the Ozarks, and many other Protestant and Catholic schools and a growing list of other schools, businesses and churches who have joined the legal battle against this coercion from the federal government. They all took a stand, knowing they risked a great financial loss in their protest against government regulations that infringe on their religious beliefs. If the issue is not resolved by January, Hobby Lobby alone faces fines of up to 1.3 million dollars per day.
They protest because after carefully reading the mandate, the leaders asserted that with this mandate “most religious institutions providing health, educational or charitable services to others have no protection.”
The guidelines for the HHS mandate, according to Stand Up for Religious Freedom, is written so narrowly that “Not even Jesus and the apostles would have qualified for this exemption.”
To explain his position, the founder of Hobby Lobby David Green said, “We seek to honor God by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. The conflict for me is that our family is being forced to choose between following the laws of the country that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families.”
(A passing thought: How can this government improve our economy by focusing on one insurance issue to the point of threatening to bankrupt businesses with massive fines? These are businesses that hire hundreds and thousands of individuals across the country.)
I am impressed with the stand of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and three other Catholic institutions which have filed a legal challenge to the federal rule.
“We are undertaking this action because the stakes are so incredibly high,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta said. “The unchallenged results of the HHS mandate would require that we compromise or violate our religious faith and ethical beliefs.”
The archbishop said the mandate affects the religious liberty of Catholics and people of other beliefs throughout the country.
“We become one more voice that must be heard by the courts as they consider the legality of this action,” he said.
These individuals and organizations have taken an expensive, unfavorable stand for their religious freedoms.
They are not the first. Four years ago, Elane Photography refused to sign a contract to provide photography for a same-sex wedding on the basis of the photographer’s religious beliefs about marriage. The couple took them to court. As the case has made its way through the courts to the New Mexico Supreme Court, Elane Photography time and again received rulings that said their religious freedom was not compromised if the one employee of Elane Photography was forced to use her artistic skills for the event.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Amish refused to contribute to the Social Security program because it was clearly described as a form of old age and survivors insurance. The Amish religious belief mandates that the community provide for their weak and elderly.
The IRS test case focused on one Amish farmer. To cover his back taxes for Social Security, they took his horses from him as he plowed his fields for spring planting. The story made the headlines around the world in the 1960s.
The Amish leaders met with the IRS commissioner in Washington and cited several Bible passages including I Timothy 5:8, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.”
The Amish ultimately won. Ironically, within two years of the decision the farmer in the court case broke his neck. True to their word, for the next three decades, until his death, the Amish community did exactly as they promised, they helped him and his family.
Some photography businesses would have given in to the fear of loss of their business in the face of a lawsuit. Elane Photography said, “No. We have a right to freedom of artistic expression and freedom to practice our religion even through our work.”
Some farmers might have given in and paid … the Amish did not.
This year, many organizations with religious affiliations have simply shrugged and bowed to yet another government imposition on church funds, but a few studied the mandate and said, “We cannot do this and be true to our beliefs.”
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in the mid-19th century said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”
Should it not also be true that your right to live as you choose ends where my religious beliefs would be negated if forced to serve your chosen activity through activities at my business, my church or my school?
It is definitely something I am thinking about as election day approaches.