Many Americans have objected to the HHS mandate as an unconstitutional threat to religious freedom that denies many Christians’ right of conscience.
But according to IFWE Distinguished Fellow Jay Richards, it denies another important theological point: the fact that all work – not just ministry – is sacred. Richards explains,
The HHS mandate boils down to this: unless you are doing really churchy work in a church for church folks, you will be forced to provide health insurance that provides contraceptives, including abortifacients, to your employees.
How churchy does the work have to be to qualify? The organization recently given a stay by the court gives us a hint: the Little Sisters of the Poor are Catholic sisters, but they are ministering to the elderly poor of diverse backgrounds, rather than to church parishioners exclusively. As a result, the sisters are expected to comply with the mandate.
If an organization like the Little Sisters of the Poor isn’t exempt, than a Christian business owner who does construction or finance or catering certainly won’t be able to follow his or her conscience in the matter.
Not only does this deny many religious individuals the right to follow their consciences, it divides work into the categories of “sacred” and “secular.” Individuals whose work falls into the former category are exempt but those in the latter category are not.
This, however, is theologically incorrect and goes against years of tradition in Christian history.
Richards sums it up:
According to the broad Christian tradition, then, church ministry can be a calling, but so too can banking or medicine or musical performance or coffee roasting or car manufacturing. If God has called you to a specific task and you pursue it with gusto, then your work is your spiritual calling.
Our worship of and service to God are not just reserved for Sunday morning; these things extend throughout the work week – whether we work directly in ministry or not. By dividing work into “sacred” and “secular” categories, the HHS mandate is not only ignoring our right of conscience as Christians, it’s undermining the way we live our whole lives.
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Photo: Students protest the HHS mandate in Detroit. Photo courtesy of SJA KofC Life Line.