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Will the courts allow Christian businesses?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A store hours sign, in a Michigan Hobby Lobby store window, showing that Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays (Credit: MLive)

Will Hobby Lobby, despite the religious objections of its owners, be forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs to its employees?  If so, what will come next for Christian business owners?  If not, what are the consequences?

Hobby Lobby is one of America’s largest retail companies, with revenues exceeding $2.28 billion.  Last Saturday, the company’s president was honored with the “Courage in Business Leadership” award by the Faith and Freedom coalition.  Steve Green was recognized as a result of Hobby Lobby’s battle with the Obama administration over the company’s refusal to provide abortion-causing drugs in its healthcare plan.

The Affordable Care Act requires companies to make such drugs available in employees’ health care.  An exception has been made for churches, but not for for-profit companies, regardless of the religious convictions of their owners.  The company (together with Mardel Christian Stores) filed a lawsuit and is waiting for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule.  If they lose or the ruling is delayed, on July 1 they could start paying as much as $1.3 million per day in fines.

The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  The government argues that such protection does not apply to a for-profit company.  Mr. Green counters that for-profit companies have some First Amendment freedoms, such as freedom of speech, and contends that other First Amendment freedoms should apply to them as well.  According to their attorney, “they ought to be able, just like a church, just like a charity, to have the right to opt out of a provision that infringes on their religious beliefs.”  More than two dozen other businesses are challenging the contraception mandate as well.

Let’s think about this issue for a moment.  If Hobby Lobby loses, what could come next?  Could the government be able to force business owners, despite their religious objections, to provide medical marijuana, sex-change operations, or abortion services?  Will the ability of a for-profit company to operate on Christian principles be jeopardized?  On the other hand, if an owner can provide or deny medical services to employees based on religious convictions, could a Jehovah’s Witness refuse to provide blood transfusions?  Could a Christian Scientist refuse to provide medical care in general?

What are your thoughts?  And know that, whatever your convictions on this issue, your Father deserves and rewards your highest loyalty to him as your King: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

St. Augustine was right: “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”