Religious Freedom, Hobby Lobby, Some Pertinent Research, and a Prayer
Today, the Supreme Court is hearing the oral arguments on "Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius." The case pits the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) against a claim of religious liberty infringement. It will be a busy news day—every comment from every Justice will be dissected and analyzed, and the news will be filled with coverage, some of it confusing and some of it agenda-driven.
Needless to say, this is a highly anticipated case for Christians and non-Christians alike as it will likely set a precedent for similar cases to follow in the future in matters of religious liberty and the relationship between church and state. The New York Times calls it "Crying Wolf on Religious Liberty," yet many Catholics, Evangelicals, and others have a different view.
Below are some helpful articles and blogs to help you understand the case and why it matters to many of us.
- First, I provide an overview of the case from the Washington Post.
- Then, a response from Rick Warren (and, for full disclosure, I share Rick's view and support Hobby Lobby.) Rick and I talked about it in a recent interview which I've also included.
- Finally, our LifeWay Research data, which shows that the majority of Americans actually do not agree with Hobby Lobby's (or my) view.
About a year ago, I hosted Rick Warren on The Exchange to talk about a number of topics, one of which was the matter of religious liberty. Below is a clip from our discussion that pertains to the Hobby Lobby case:
LifeWay Research Data Pertinent to the Case
LifeWay Research has done a couple of projects that relate to the Hobby Lobby case, namely one dealing with American thoughts on the provision of contraception and on the decline of religious freedom.
Below is a graphic showing that a majority of Americans support the idea that employers must supply contraceptives to their employees.
As I was quoted in the USAToday story on our research, similar to Rick Warren's mentioned earlier:
"The religious freedom that the United States pioneered is not a freedom of belief, but a freedom to practice that faith," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "The American public appears unaware or unconcerned that some religious organizations and family businesses indicate fear of losing the freedom to practice their faith under the new healthcare regulations."
People in the survey may "overlook the fact that more than 90 percent of businesses with employees are family businesses. Recent lawsuits contend that the religious freedoms of these families conflict with healthcare choices desired by individuals," said Stetzer.
However, as I mentioned in the article, most Americans have a different view.
Here's our data:
In addition, 70% of American Protestant Senior Pastors and 54% of Americans in general think that religious freedom is on the decline.
ReligionLink has a helpful, comprehensive list of many more links regarding today's case than I provided here. Check out their list for more analysis and commentary on religious liberty and the contraception mandate.
Where from Here?
The Supreme Court will only hear the opening arguments of the participants in this case, and only the Lord knows how the Court will ultimately rule down the road. But, we can be informed and we can pray.
The fact that most Americans don't support the view (when the question is asked as we did) is not surprising and we need to know these things. Facts are our friends and we need to know when public opinion is different than our opinion.
Asking it differenty might, however, yield a different answer. (For example, "Do you think that a Christian business owner should be forced to pay for drugs that they believe causes life to be aborted.") However, that is not how the issue is being framed in most conversations and our research intentionally reflects the current conversation.
Simply put, it appears that most Americans are not as passionate about the religious liberty issue (when connected to contraception) as most evangelicals and conservative Catholics are.
However, and this is important, in general, Americans tend to be LESS passionate about freedom of religion than the consitution and the courts.
So, since this is my blog hosted at an evangelical magazine, I will opine here and say that I hope that the Supreme Court sees religious liberty as more sacrcosanct than most Americans. Our research is intentionally not biased, coming to a different conclusion than I would prefer—but that is part of being a research organization with integrity.
So, please join me in praying for wisdom from the Supreme Court, and I think that wisdom would be that religious liberty is not just freedom to worship, but freedom to run a Christian business as well. That is why it is called the "first freedom."
Please join me in praying for the case, the court, and our country.