For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s the (mostly) true story of two British runners in the 1924 Olympics. One of these athletes – Eric Liddell – is faced with an agonizing dilemma when the heat for his 100-meter race is scheduled on a Sunday. Despite years of training and anticipation, Mr. Liddell’s Christian convictions prevent him from competing on the Sabbath. He withdraws from the race. (Check it out)
“An attorney for Hobby Lobby Stores said Thursday that the arts and crafts chain plans to defy a federal mandate requiring it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill, despite risking potential fines of up to $1.3 million per day.”
“Slow down, bro!” (you interject) “Doesn’t the First Amendment say something about the free exercise of religion and stuff?”
I’m glad you asked! And yeah, it does. I’ll get to that. First, I should probably bring everyone up to speed on where this $1.3-million-per-day fine came from.
March 23, 2010: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e. “Obamacare”) is signed into law, unleashing dozens of legal challenges and all sorts of federal mandates, guidelines, and other miscellaneous proclamations.
January 20, 2012: The Department of Health and Human Services mandates that all employer-provided health plans provide free contraceptives. Some exemptions are granted to churches, but not to most religious employers or church-affiliated nonprofits.
February 10, 2012: After a good deal of public outcry, President Obama holds a press conference to announce a Grand Compromise: if a woman’s employer has religious objections to paying for her birth control, then the insurance company will be required to offer free birth control. (Because, as everyone knows, the immorality of an action can be alleviated by introducing a middleman. This is why committing murder is wrong, but hiring a hitman to commit murder is totally legit.)
August 1, 2012: The contraceptive mandate officially goes into effect.
January 1, 2013: Exorbitant fines for noncompliance ($100 per employee, per day) slated to go into effect for companies like Hobby Lobby.
This brings me back to the First Amendment issue of religious freedom: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Historically, this “free exercise of religion” has been understood to mean, “any religious activity that is legal, and that doesn’t cause harm to others.” So things like prayer and kosher diets are protected by the First Amendment, but human sacrifices are not. With this contraceptive mandate, the government has essentially extended the meaning of “harm” to include “not paying for another person’s birth control.” Which makes total sense…until you think about it.
Our religious freedoms have been gradually eroded by an ever-increasing “soft totalitarianism”, and Hobby Lobby seems prepared to resort to civil disobedience rather than compromise on their values. It’s a sad state of affairs…but it’s also a pretty cool example of what the Christian life should look like.
After all, how can the Christian follow Christ’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself” if he is forced to participate, financially, in his neighbor’s sinful actions?
There are few things more inspiring than a person willing to stand alone, defiantly, against tyranny; to sacrifice all that they’ve earned rather than violate their convictions.