Why tomorrow’s Supreme Court Hearing Matters
You’re tired of hearing about Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court, tired of all the talk of fines and health-care plans and reproductive rights, tired of being bombarded with words spoken in anger from both sides of the aisle. You want to put your fingers in your ears, switch the channel, and wait for the ruling and the rest of it to just go away.
But even though you are tired, even though you’ve grown weary of having the same discussions about the same points, Hobby Lobby and fines and health-care plans still matter. They matter because your country – the United States of America – was founded on the principle that you were born with certain rights: the rights to seek and follow truth, to live according to your beliefs, to worship freely.
And no one, not even the government, gets to tell you how to do that.
Today, our federal government threatens that right, consistently refusing to protect religious liberty as our Constitution and the laws of nature demand. In the dozens of cases against the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, the government has started dictating the boundaries of religious beliefs, and to pick and choose which beliefs – and which individuals – deserve religious liberty protection.
The contraceptive mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to provide a full range of 20 FDA-approved contraceptive devices, drugs and services in their health-care plans. These include “emergency contraceptives” with the ability to prevent implantation of an embryo – in other words, the ability to end a human life. Catholics, Lutherans, and many other Americans find these drugs morally reprehensible. Yet, though objections to the mandate are strong and numerous – with over 90 lawsuits filed so far – the government has simply swept them aside.
The mandate’s provisions allow for very narrow exemptions for houses of worship. Exemptions do not extend even to affiliates of those houses of worship; for example, a Catholic order of nuns, operating homes for the elderly poor, is not exempt. Nor are Christian colleges, nor are thousands of other religious non-profit organizations, which serve the public good.
In the case of the non-profits, the government has come up with an empty “accommodation” that would force organizations to sign HHS forms directing third-party administrators to provide the drugs that the organizations cannot. As one plaintiff, the Little Sisters of the Poor, explained, these forms are nothing more than permission slips. The Little Sisters cannot direct someone else to act immorally, just as they cannot act immorally themselves. The government has branded this particular belief meaningless.
Neither the exemption nor the false “accommodation” extends to individuals who run their own businesses, like David and Barbara Green, owners of Hobby Lobby. The Greens morally oppose providing drugs that can prevent implantation and have filed suit against HHS, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. In the Greens’ case, the government claims that moral convictions must be abandoned at the door of the workplace. The Greens may not run their own companies according to their consciences. Or, in return for staying true to their convictions, they will be forced to pay crushing fines.
The government’s distinctions under the mandate don’t make sense. The government does not get to reduce God and the way in which He works down to what happens only in church or worship. By its definition, religious liberty stipulates that a church – not the government – must be permitted to form its own definition and its own boundaries.
Moreoever, God uses each of us in our vocations to serve those around us. This call to serve others and live according to our beliefs extends beyond our houses of worship, into our homes, our communities, and our work. To prevent individuals from following the dictates of their consciences is an abuse of power and a gross infringement on human dignity.
As the leader of a Christian church body, I strongly object to the government’s approach of picking and choosing whose beliefs merit consideration. Now, according to the government, Catholic nuns must authorize others to give out free contraceptives, and evangelical Christians must abandon their most deeply held convictions in the operations of their own businesses. What group, and what belief, will next be under attack?
Friends, we may be weary. We may be tired. But we must stand together to protect our God-given right to religious liberty. This mandate threatens not only those whose religions specifically compel them to oppose it, but all Americans. We cannot allow our government to define the content of our beliefs or the degree of their significance.
The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is the current and 13th president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
You are right on and a great leader of our LCMS. Thanks!
“You are ‘right on’? whomever… you must be a child of the 60s.. TOO. Just saying. The Lutheran way to say that is, “This is most certainly true”.
Forwarded to me by one of our Pastors – an excellent summary that I have now shared on Facebook. Hoping it might get through to those who are apathetic and/or just do not understand the “slippery slope” we are headed down…
How do I receive the religious liberty emails?
How does this all square with the Apology to the Augsburg Confession Article XVI in which we are taught that we are to obey all laws even those written by pagans and in that same article we read “Carlstadt was crazy to impose on us Moses judicial laws.” I believe the above article comes very close to trying to impose the Law of Moses on our nation. This is not what the church is to be about. We believe that the Lord our God owns and uses both realms, the left and the right and that when I am obeying the left hand I am obeying the Lord God for He is behind the mask of government. Paul did not say only obey a Christian but whatever the government is even raw pagan! I see no mandate whatever from the lips of Jesus or the Apostles to the effect that we as church are to rebuke the government in this particular matter and dictate to them. Why are we so on about moral issues which are not the exclusive property of the church? The church is about making disciples by baptizing and teaching. The exception clause that is often quoted in the book of Acts that we ought to obey God rather than men is very narrow. The authorities were asking them to directly disobey the unique commission given to the church and this the church cannot do but we are now applying this to anything that runs afoul of our conscience. I don’t understand. And why the hearkening to the Constitution as some sort of authority for the church. I have yet to find “inalienable rights” in the Scripture or Confessions. This is an enlightenment notion. The Constitution is a decidedly godless document that purposely avoids the entanglements of church and state that blighted Europe. It seems we want to now go down that same road or to find our way back to some golden age in America when we were moral and then falsely equate moral with Christian. Arthur M. Casci
The difference is that we ARE the government! Therefore we have a responsibility to govern rightly as well as obey
We are talking about the funding and condoning of the killing of children. I could see your point if it weren’t concerning something so fundamentally wrong. If the church won’t defend them, who will?
Forgive me. You seem like a very educated man from your post, but you appear to be ignorant on this particular issue. Can you not see where this is leading? If someone is being coerced into sinful behavior by anyone, including the federal government, is that not still sin? If we can stop that sin from happening, shouldn’t we at least try? You work very hard in your post at justifying the wrong side of this discussion. You say you don’t understand. I believe that is because you don’t want to. It’s pretty simple for me to understand. When they eventually come from you (and they will), you will look around for someone to help you and there will be no one left, because they will all be gone already. I know. We still have our Lord and Savior, but what a sin that we stood by and refused to help a single soul. Loving your neighbor means sacrifice. You really need to consider that before you post any more on this issue.
You obviously have forgotten the difference in the 2 governments that are addressed. We ARE the government. Not the majority of people who believe one way it another, but each and everyone of us. This isn’t a 2 kingdom discussion. This is an American liberties discussion. This is about holding the government to its OWN statutes, not legislating morality. Heaven help us if we demand an amoral government to do so. Yes. We are to obey the government and its laws, even a pagan government, but we are not Jews living in the Roman empire. We are Christians living in a republic by the people, of the people, for the people and we shirk our duties as citizens of this country and as God’s people to not speak up, stand up and be heard when dialogue is required.
As a lifelong LCMS Lutheran, I find myself in the disctinct minority among all of these “thank you” e-mails; but I agree with Arthur Casci. I believe that it would be reasonable to take a cue from Martin Luther, and challenge with discussion, the course the Synod has charted for the last several years; rather than choose “blind acceptance” of views that we may disagree with. We live in a pluralistic, Democratic nation, where the kingdom of God and the world are colliding. We must be bold; but also “faithfully rational.” Is it a unifying act among Christian citizens to almost “coerice” our congregants into political positions, or allegiance to a particular political party? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; but The Reformation must continue within our LCMS faithful. If I feel that there are times in which I must question my Church leadership, when the Holy Spirit speaks to my conscience that scripture may not coincide with their views; then I will speak out. I continue to be held “captive to the Holy Scripture” as best I can, and if I am not satisfied with the stance of my church body on any issue, then, as Martin Luther said, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” I also have concerns that the LCMS is not attacking the problems of poverty, disease, racism, inadequate education, violence in our streets, and unjust wars (to name a few); as adamantly as they have confronted homosexual marriage, abortion, and immoral forms of contraception…..all of which, we can agree, are contrary to God’s Law. Again, more debate and discussion may be in order, to decide what role the Church should play in the “Civil” world to address these issues. I have faith that my beloved LCMS always allow the members to “speak the truth in love.” God’s Peace.
Arthur, how does this article attempt to impose the law of Moses? Whether one agrees or disagrees with the use of contraceptives, the point of this law suit is that those who have compelling religious convictions ought to be able to opt out of at least that portion of the mandate to which they object. No one is keeping anyone from purchasing these items on their own. The point is that religious organizations and private business owners should not be forced to provide substances that are considered morally objectionable to the organizations or business owners. Whether Hobby Loobby wins or people can buy contraceptives. Hobby Lobby simply doesn’t have to be part of it.
Edit: Whether Hobby Lobby wins or loses, people…
You will find the phrase “inalienable rights” in the United States Declaration of Independence. This is a concept our country was founded on.
Eloquently written. Also, what continues to be dropped is the fact that Hobby Lobby offered these benefits before. Why have they come out this way with the Affordable Care Act?
Thank you, President Harrison! Let us pray that our Judiciary will be given wisdom, clarity of vision, a commitment to the values and truth so many have given their lives to protect and the integrity to render the decision accordingly.
Thank you for speaking out on this case. Despite a cost involved in doing the right thing, Christians are called to follow through. So whether the cost is severe, i.e., substantial fines, we pray that Christians would pay those costs to maintain their much diminished religious freedom and freedom of speech. Grant us Lord courage.
Thank you for your faithful and solid statement about this case.
AMEN!!!! AMEN!!! AMEN!!!
Thank you for your solid Christian leadership!! It’s time men and women stood peacefully up for our LORD, behind solid and non wavering Pastoral leadership in standing up for our Biblical values and the Constitutional principles on which our great Nation was founded.
I have also reposted on FB plus sent a copy to my husband so we can discuss the issue in detail. Thank-you!
Well written and position points are made very clear. I’m glad that the LCMS is standing with fellow Christians, and other religions when our freedoms to worship and live as we believe.
come into jeopardy.
Thank you President Harrison for taking a stand and giving a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves and were created in the image of God. Bless Hobby Lobby for their Christian beliefs!! I will always shop there because of their Christian beliefs!! Praise be to God!! Come Lord Jesus!!
Watch closely what hypocrites our government has become. We are not allowed to practice our religious beliefs, but the Muslims very soon will have their Sharia law in this country too.
What beliefs might those? What can you not practice? I still have not been able to get an answer, any answer. I would appreciate if you could inform me…. because I just dont know. Thank you.
I am so thankful for your words. It is a fearful time, and the LCMS must stand up against this
Overstep of the government.
I would like someone to explain to me how “religious liberty” is a God-given right.
Also, religious freedom, as understood by the Founding Fathers, applied to states. This is why Maryland was a Roman Catholic state, Virginia was an Anglican state, and so on. The current use of “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” is being applied in such a way as to make the whole nation look like Rhode Island when it was first being settled.
The modern use of the expression “religious liberty” today is built upon the illusion that apart from religion man can know the Good and so religion is accidental to a well functioning society so long as that society understands the laws of nature. However, the reality of what has happened is that without the Church, Western civilization has lost sight of the first causes of natural law and morality. This has rendered them empty or in some cases, their removal from our social consciousness altogether.
I object to rights driven language since it is the language of permission. It’s obvious that Christians don’t have permission to violate the Ten Commandments. In the case of abortion, it is a violation of multiple commandments, particularly the 5th Commandment. Christians may not commit murder because it is against God’s Law. But, since it’s God’s Law, it is also universal, and in the case of the 5th Commandment it is universally known. Theologians and natural philosophers (Christian or not) claim that such laws as “Thou shalt not murder” fall into the realm of natural law as well. Therefore, man may not commit murder and it is reasonable to expect all men to know this, live by it, and suffer the consequences when it is violated. When the Church insists that natural law be upheld, she is doing a good thing since God wants order and peace to be preserved on the earth.
“By its definition, religious liberty stipulates that a church – not the government – must be permitted to form its own definition and its own boundaries”..But Hobby Lobby is NOT a “church”, it’s a corporation. I am in full support of Hobby Lobby, not because of any Constitutional argument, but on the point that the ACA is Unconstitutional. Just as with the irrational R v W has caused a spate of stupid, irrational legal rulings, so shall the mistake of the USSC allowing the ACA to stand. I expect this USSC to rule against Hobby Lobby by 6 to 3.
I respect all religions, although an atheist. I actually found this article from a pastor friend. First, I think you need to reevaluate what happens with emergency contraception. The way it is explained is in accurate and misleading. I’m not sure how any of this is restricting your religious freedoms. The government is not forcing birth control with communion. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike the ACA, but it’s here for now. I don’t think it’s right for your Christian organization to choose whether or not your employees get birth control and what’s right for them. Obviously I am the minority on the page, and that’s fine, I just wish more people could look further than some literal interpretation of parts of the bible. I believe strongly in the constitution and would do anything to protect your rights to practice your religion, I would never do anything to stifle it and would die before letting anyone stop you from believing what you want. I’m just asking for religion to stop trying to affect the lives of non-believers.
Dear Dr. Harrison,
Would it be possible to get permission to forward this excellent right-on piece to newspapers such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer?
In the name of the LORD of Life,