Public Square

IFWE Co-Signs Supreme Court Brief for Hobby Lobby Case

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Contrary to popular conversation, the upcoming Supreme Court case on the HHS mandate is not just about contraception. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby has much larger implications for Christians in the workplace. This case is really about the sanctity of work and the fallacy of the sacred and secular divide.

This past Tuesday, the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics was honored to join thirty-six leading Protestant pastors, theologians, scholars, and other Christian organizations in filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

Signatories include Dr. Rick Warren, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Dr. D.A. Carson, and Dr. Wayne Grudem. Other supporters include Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Coalition of African American Pastors, the Manhattan Declaration, and InStep International.

The brief examines the core aspects of the Christian doctrine of vocation to demonstrate why the HHS mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which requires business owners to provide their employees with certain abortifacient contraceptives, compromises religious freedom. To make this case, the brief states that Christian doctrine teaches…

  • Faith governs every aspect of a Christian’s life.
  • All work is religious activity.
  • Vocation encompasses both overtly sacred and seemingly secular occupations.
  • An individual’s vocation is ordained by God as a religious enterprise.
  • Christians are required to act in their vocations in accordance with their Christian beliefs.
  • 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.

The brief concludes by requesting the Court to:

…allow a for-profit corporation to abstain from providing its employees with certain abortifacient contraceptives based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.

In the eyes of the state, there is a stark divide between sacred and secular activities. The law assumes once someone enters a profit-making business, they lose their religious freedoms in the context of those activities. In other words, Christian business owners are forced to check their faith at the workplace door.

The law violates the holistic nature of the Christian faith. The idea that for-profit work, or work that is not exclusively outwardly religious in nature, somehow becomes “less religious” is absurd. To Christians, work is a religious activity.

Hugh Whelchel, Executive Director at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, co-signed the brief. He says,

At its core, the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga case before the US Supreme Court is not about healthcare or reproductive rights. It is about religious freedom. The Justice Department is trying to redefine the First Amendment in such a way as to restrict a Christian’s right to fulfill his or her biblical vocational calling in any job outside the church. This has huge implications because for every Christian work is a religious activity.

Few pay much attention to the way in which the mandate directly contradicts the Christian theology of work. But if we take it seriously, there can be no secular pursuits. Colossians 3:23 affirms the doctrine of work by encouraging us to do everything as if unto the Lord. This includes running a business.

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?

Dr. Art Lindsley, Vice President of Theological Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, also co-signed the brief. He says this mandate represents an erosion of our liberty and that we must fervently oppose it:

Any erosion of [religious] freedom must be resisted. If we fail to stand up and do so, we should not be surprised if we see disastrous consequences in the future. As Os Guinness says, “the problem is not the wolves at the door but the termites in the floor.”

At the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, we deny a dividing line between private worship and public work. The message we send to the Supreme Court is that to the Christian, work is a religious activity.

What do you think? Leave your comments here.

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