Will religious freedom become this decade’s civil rights movement? Rick Warren believes so. His recent comments were made in support of Hobby Lobby, the craft chain that has been locked in a battle with the Obama Administration over the company’s refusal to provide abortion-inducing drugs in its healthcare plan.
Here’s the background: in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, the Health and Human Services “preventive services” mandate now requires companies to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients (drugs that cause abortions) in employees’ health care. An exemption has been made for churches, but not for for-profit companies, regardless of the religious convictions of their owners.
Hobby Lobby, an evangelical Christian-owned company, has steadfastly refused to provide drugs such as the “morning-after” and “week-after” pill. It made an emergency request to the Supreme Court to block enforcement of the mandate, but was denied by Justice Sonia Sotomayor on December 26 and has faced fines of $1.3 million a day since January 1. To date they would owe $19.5 million, but the company has announced plans to shift the beginning of its employee health plan. By postponing the effective date of the mandate they were able to delay these fines. But the issue is far from resolved.
If the government can force any organization that is not a church to abide by its contraception requirements, it will force religiously sponsored schools, hospitals, nursing homes, pregnancy counseling centers, and similar service organizations to choose between contradicting their principles and closing their doors.
We are already seeing such secularization in other countries. For example, a German judge recently outlawed the circumcision of children. A new law in the Netherlands may outlaw methods of animal slaughter that comply with Muslim and Jewish practices. The Dutch Medical Association requires all doctors to practice euthanasia or recommend a physician who will. And Victoria, Australia now compels every physician to provide abortions or refer the patient to a doctor who will perform the procedure.
Is America moving in this direction? If so, what should Christians do? How do we balance civil obedience and biblical mandates? And remember that Peter taught us to obey civil authorities (1 Peter 2:13-14), but when he and John were ordered not to preach the gospel, they replied: “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
What price are you willing to pay for your faith today?