Where ever you stack up on the morality of contraceptives, the healthcare mandate known as “Obamacare” is making many think twice about what religious freedom means. The White House made an announcement last week stating that all privately owned employers must include contraception measures for their employees.
The rule states that houses of worship and related organizations such as universities and hospitals do not have to cover the bill for contraceptives. Instead, the insurance companies get the bill. This announcement was not favorable for those who object to contraception for reasons of conviction and/or conscience. After hearing 400,000 comments, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius said that the “announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work.”
Many disagree with the rule. In fact, some federal judges disagree.
Hobby Lobby, who is suing the government based on their interpretation of the first amendment, received good news this past Thursday. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said the craft-store chain can continue to seek to overturn a portion of the Affordable Care Act. The judges wrote, “Hobby Lobby and Mardel have drawn a line at providing coverage for drugs or devices they consider to induce abortions, and it is not for us to question whether the line is reasonable. The question here is not whether the reasonable observer would consider the plaintiffs complicit in an immoral act, but rather how the plaintiffs themselves measure their degree of complicity.”
The court referenced a 2010 SCOTUS ruling that protected the ability of for-profit organizations to have a political voice. “We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” the judges announced this past Thursday. The case will be sent back to the lower court in Oklahoma City that had initially rejected the companies’ petition for an injunction.
There are more than 60 other similar cases that have been filed in reaction to the mandate, and courts have given temporary relief to these businesses as their cases proceed. This political battle will likely continue for another year as the courts deal with the fallout, but the spiritual effects can begin now.
Peter exhorts us to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority or to governors” (1 Peter 2:13-14). The emperor Peter was referring to was the Roman Emperor Nero, notorious for prosecuting Christians and having them killed in particularly gruesome ways, often publicly. This is the very emperor who had Peter crucified upside down. We must submit to the highest authority first, and that is God, and if our ruling authorities are not asking us to contradict God, we are commanded to obey.
So, what do we do when those in authority ask us to disobey God? Peter has an answer for this too. In Acts 4, Peter and John were commanded before the Sanhedrin to stop speaking of Jesus Christ. They replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!”
What would you do if you were in the shoes of a Christian business owner? Provide contraceptives obediently? Or do you think this is a circumstance where what is right in God’s eyes is not in line with this law?