At Work & Public Square

How the Supreme Court Could Impact Our Work

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Today, the Supreme Court will hear the oral arguments for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, two cases in which business owners are facing pressure to provide employees with insurance coverage for all contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.

On January 21st, IFWE joined thirty-six individuals and organizations in filing an amicus brief in support of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties. But these two cases are about religious freedom – do they have anything to do with faith, work, and economics?

As it turns out, they do. The underlying question of these two cases is whether for-profit work is a religious or purely secular activity, as the government is claiming.

The owners of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties argue that offering health insurance coverage that includes coverage of drugs meant to “end human life after conception” violates their consciences and interferes with their free exercise of religion.

On the other side, Solicitor General David Verrilli on behalf of HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius will argue:

The federal government has never afforded for-profit corporations the religious protections Hobby Lobby says are being violated by the contraception mandate…the contraception mandate does not rise to the level of being a “substantial religious burden.”

But as I stated in a previous blog post,

At the heart of the Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties case is a misunderstanding of the Christian view of work. It is the attempt to replace the religious liberty guaranteed us by the First Amendment with religious tolerance that would have jurisdiction anywhere outside of the walls of the church.

The government is classifying for-profit work as secular activity that is separated from our spiritual life. If work is purely secular, it makes sense that the laws and regulations of the state take precedence over our consciences and religious freedoms. But the reality is that work is an important act of worship – a way of obeying God’s command to serve our neighbors and cultivate his creation.

Elise Amyx explains this further, making five key points in this regard:

  • Our faith encompasses every aspect of our life, in our churches, homes, and workplaces. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Emphasis added).
  • Our vocation matters to God whether or not we hold overtly “Christian” jobs. A businessman’s work matters just as much to God as the pastor’s work.
  • If all work is a way of serving God, then we need to abide by our Christian beliefs and God’s commandments while at work.
  • It is a sin for a Christian to enable another in doing what the Christian believes to be sin.
  • Requiring a Christian to choose between violating the government’s regulations or violating his sincerely held religious beliefs substantially burdens his or her exercise of religion.

Amyx asks,

The current policy punishes Christian business owners by forcing them to choose between God and business. But if we aren’t free to choose both, are we really free?

What the government’s argument hinges on is the notion that for-profit work is a purely secular act. It fails to recognize that all work matters to God and that providing a good and service that people value is just as important as full-time Christian ministry or nonprofit work.

These cases are not just about health insurance, contraception, or even freedom of expression. They are also about how we view our work. Are we using our work as an opportunity to use our unique interests, gifts, and talents to impact the world now and in the future? How we answer this affects how we as Christians steward our time and resources throughout the week.

Will we be full-time or part-time Christians? Are we living for God just on Sunday mornings or during our Monday through Friday schedule as well? Does our faith really inform how we do everything else?

Though we ultimately answer these questions in accordance with Scripture, it will still be interesting to see how the Supreme  Court’s decision impacts our work.

Leave your comments here.

Supreme Court photo courtesy of Wally Gobetz; Hobby Lobby Photo courtesy of Nicholas Eckhart.

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