The newest cause that has some evangelical Christians up in arms is the battle Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain store with 9 locations in Kansas City and 525 locations total, CEO David Green is waging against the federal health care mandate. He takes issue with emergency contraception, believing it might cause abortions. Since he is morally opposed to abortions, he doesn’t believe the health insurance provided to his employees should include something that he thinks could cause one.
He’s filed a lawsuit claiming that his religious freedom is being impinged, “the government cannot force you to follow laws that go against your fundamental religious belief,” he says.
That’s not an accurate statement for at least a couple of reasons. First, the government can force people to follow laws that go against their religious beliefs if those laws serve to protect others. So, for example, if someone’s fundamental religious belief is that if his daughter is raped she should be killed, the government can force that someone to follow the law prohibiting murder. Another example is a pacifist who believes war is murder, but is required to help finance war through income taxes.
The second and more pertinent reason that Mr.Green’s statement is misguided is that Hobby Lobby is neither a church nor and individual, so religious freedom is not extended to it as it is to non-profit religious groups and to individuals. US District Court Judge Joe Heaton said as much when he rejected Green’s request to block the health care madate.
“Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a consitutional right to the free exercise of religion,” Heaton wrote.
In other words, if you want to do business in the USA, you have to follow the laws. This is not new. A church is allowed to descriminate against women based on their religious beliefs, but a construction company can not. A religious charity can fire someone for marrying someone of a different race, but a bank can not. A church can legally refuse to promote someone based on that person’s religious practices, but, as long as the religious practice doesn’t interfere with work, a restaurant chain can not. Labor laws are in place to ensure a safe, equitable, just workplace for all Americans, and even if this goes against someone’s fundamental religious beliefs, they must follow those laws when conducting business.
This mandate has set a minimum standard for health care, and every company, regardless of the owner’s religious beliefs, must follow it. So, a Jehovah’s Witness who owns a large delivery company can not exclude blood transfusions from their employees’ health insurance plan. A Christian Scientist who owns a real estate company can not exclude doctor and hospital visits from their group health insurance plan. And an Evangelical Christian who owns a chain of arts and crafts stores can’t pick and choose which contraceptives are included in the employees’ health insurance.
Unless Hobby Lobby wants to become a non-profit religious organization (which, if they choose to defy the mandate and pay the fines, they may very well end up doing), they have to follow the same rules as everyone else. In fact, many Christians are urging Hobby Lobby to do so. Nazarene pastor Lance Schmitz of Oklahoma City tried to deliver a petition urging Hobby Lobby to drop their challenge to the federal mandate. Schmitz says that the petition includes 80,000 signatures.
It would be a shame if the owner of Hobby Lobby chose to destroy his company over this. But, it is his choice and his freedom to do so.