The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius case is incredibly important and wonderful news for all who love religious liberty. However, some have misunderstood its significance. I am indescribably opposed to the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (read: Obamacare). It is arguably the single worst piece of legislation in the U.S.A. since Reconstruction. I hope the entire law will be repealed. I am saying all that so that no reader will misunderstand what I say next.
The Hobby Lobby win is important not because the Obamacare law itself is wrong-headed, which it certainly is, but because the section on contraception and, most importantly, abortive prescriptions, is unconscionable and utterly unconstitutional. No matter what anyone thinks of Obamacare as a whole, liberals, democrats, republicans and conservatives should be horrified that that portion of the law was ever passed. Likewise, all who love liberty should rejoice that it was struck down.
This decision upholds again that the government cannot force private parties to buy products which violate their consciences. If this case had failed in the Supreme Court it could have paved the way for the government to force us to pay for anything it deemed worthy irrespective of our conscience. In my opinion the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional but this section was absolutely terrifying in its implications. What if the government should decide that assisted suicide is a right and companies had to pay for it? Forgetting any Christian issues involved, what if the government decided that eating pork was a human right and Muslims who owned businesses were forced to serve it their company cafeterias? Or if Seventh Day Adventist hospitals had to serve meat in theirs, because after all, the right to eat meat is fundamental?
This decision is good news, not just for Christians, but for all whose consciences dictate their business decisions. Here are some thoughts on the Hobby Lobby decision.
1: The decision does not mean the Affordable Care Act has been ruled unconstitutional. If that horrible law is to be brought down it will be because Congress repeals it and a president, indubitably not the law's namesake, will have to sign the repeal into law.
2: The application of the decision is somewhat narrow. It only applies to businesses controlled by a small group of people. It will have no bearing on publicly traded corporations. Some years ago I interviewed David Green for an article in Charisma Magazine. In that interview I asked him why he never took Hobby Lobby public. Imagine how much money that IPO would generate. His answer afforded a significant insight into the man and his company. He said he never went public because if he did he would lose control over the giving.
He told me, "I can give my money wherever the Lord tells me. I cannot give away stockholders' money."
At that time, neither of us dreamed of such a horrible law as the Affordable Care Act. In retrospect his decision to keep the company private also protected it from this portion of Obamacare.
3: The decision is not a "Christian" decision. I am a Christian and the Greens certainly are, but this decision is not really about Christianity at all. It is about the liberty of personal conscience. If I were an atheist I would applaud this decision. What if a law passed that the right to a Bible is fundamental, therefore secular companies, even those privately owned by atheists, or Hindus, or Druids, must provide them for all employees? I would oppose that provision as vehemently as the Greens opposed this one. Therefore, those who love liberty, irrespective of their faith or lack of it, should be rejoicing over the decision.
4: This decision is a silver cloud to be sure but there is a dark lining. It is unimaginable but true that despite the win, the decision was five to four. I cannot imagine how four Supreme Court justices can justify their endorsement of this invasion of religious liberty. Those four votes are a sober warning that the next round of appointments to the Supreme Court will be the most important in a hundred years. The future of religious liberty in the United States assuredly depends on the next justices. No reason to vote in the next presidential election is as compelling as whom that president will appoint to the Supreme Court.
One final thought. Because I know the Greens and respect them as I do, I am delighted for them, absolutely delighted. As the saying goes, "This couldn't have happened to a nicer group of people." Even so...
The win is bigger than this wonderful family on this particular issue. This decision should encourage and embolden all who find a giant overreaching government invading their lives and businesses and consciences. As discouraging as the scene in Washington is today, the Supreme Court has given us hope. David does, upon occasion, still beat Goliath. This family dug in and fought it out. And they won! They won against a massive government with an inexhaustible legal fund. They won against a stacked deck. They won when most doubted they could and many inexplicably hoped they wouldn't. They won.
This won't be the last case where some horrible law violates someone's conscience. There will be more Goliaths ahead but by God's grace there will also be more Davids, who will step up and put it all on the line as David Green and his family did. I find it a sweet irony that Mr. Green's name is David. David may not win every time but every battle will be important. Take heart, all you Davids out there. It turns out that the time-honored old truism isn't true at all. You can fight city hall.
Mark Rutland is the author of 13 books. He also leads a missions and church-planting organization, Global Servants.