Life Together, Again
Image: Heaher Weston / Getty

If we lived in normal times, few would notice if the Supreme Court agreed that a group had the right to practice its religious views without government interference. The plaintiffs would sigh in relief, the chastised government agency would formulate new rules, and we'd all move on.

Obviously, we do not live in normal times. The farther we get from the Supreme Court's decision on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, the less it feels like a victory for anyone. Instead, it reminds us that fewer and fewer of our neighbors understand how religious organizations—and all communities smaller than the state—contribute to human flourishing and the common good.

One essential question in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was the extent to which a for-profit corporation can hold to a religious (in this case, Christian) identity. In her dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited approvingly the idea that for-profit groups "use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate a religious-values-based mission."

The words rather than are key. In Justice Ginsburg's view, it seems, corporations cannot serve—or at least the law cannot recognize that they serve—any god other than Mammon. She articulated an equally small view of nonprofits when she wrote that "religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith."

This may indeed describe the mission of some churches and synagogues. But tragically, it seems Justice Ginsburg has never met a religious community that takes seriously William Temple's words that the church "exists for the benefit of those who are not its members." Such communities, which we regularly ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
Receiving the Little Children Subscriber Access Only
Along the Mexican border, U.S. churches care for undocumented children.
Recommended10 Things Sexual Assault Victims Want You to Know
10 Things Sexual Assault Victims Want You to Know
When I posed a question about abuse on Facebook, I was inundated with responses.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickChristians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
Christians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
When disease vectors are also victims.
Christianity Today
Life Together, Again
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2014

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.