It was only a few days ago that the President rightly called for National Days of Prayer and Remembrance in memory of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and to reaffirm America’s long standing history of prayer and religious freedom.
Yet almost simultaneously, we were reminded of the deplorable fines business owners still face if they refuse to abandon their spiritual beliefs and values in order to comply with the Federal Government’s healthcare plan, also known as the Affordable Care Act.
This outrageous practice is in stark contrast to the President’s own Proclamation May 3rd of this year which in part, stated, “On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience [emphases mine].”1
Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a privately held retail chain with more than 500 arts and crafts stores in 41 states and more than 22,000 employees, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on September 12th. The civil action case opposes the Health and Human Services (HHS) “preventive services” mandate, which forces the Christian-owned-and-operated business to either provide insurance coverage that directly violates their conscience, or face crippling fines of up to $1.3 million dollars per day.
“By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow,” said David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO and founder. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”2 Read Press Release.
Hobby Lobby has joined a growing number of companies that have been compelled to defend their religious liberties. The Newland Family, owners of Hercules Industries, a leading HVAC manufacturer and distributor with 265 employees, face similar fines amounting to $800,000 per month or almost $10 million per year. Businesses, universities, and organizations across America that do not fit into the narrow religious-liberty exemption, will be confronted with the same chilling experience if they also choose to fight for freedom of conscience and their faith-based rights which are protected under the First Amendment. The government seems to be saying, “We want your business. We want your tax dollars. We want you fueling the economy, but check your faith at the door!”
For decades, citizens in this country remained confident the Constitution not only secured these sacred freedoms—freedoms deriving their substance from a Sovereign Creator—but that our elected officials would honor the oath they swore to uphold them. Most never imagined or foresaw an America that would once again find herself in a battle to preserve our religious heritage.
Listen to the words of George Washington in his first inaugural address to both houses of Congress in 1789,
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which we have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”3
It is imperative we pray for our national and state leaders, especially those who are sponsoring and advocating pro-faith legislation as a means to re-establish the Founding Principles that make this nation great. Their voices are needed now more than ever and may God grant them a clarion call to pursue righteousness and preserve our identity.
The concerted efforts by many within government, media, academic institutions, etc., to redefine First Amendment Freedoms and confine faith exclusively to our private hearts and homes, is no longer an idle threat, but a sober reality. The healthcare mandate is a prime example of the foresight of the Danbury Baptists as they expressed concern in a letter to Thomas Jefferson about government interfering with their right to exercise their faith in the public square. It was then that Jefferson assured them of the wall of separation between church and state; protecting the church from interference from government.
In ruling on the 1952 case of Zorach v. Clauson, Supreme Court Justice, William Douglas (who was liberal and no overt friend of religion), still declared,
“The First Amendment, however, does not say in every respect there shall be a separation of Church and State. Rather, it studiously defines the manner, the specific ways, in which there will be no concert or union or dependency one on the other. That is the common sense of the matter. Otherwise the state and religion would be aliens to each other—hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly. Prayers in our legislative halls; the appeals to the Almighty in the messages of the Chief Executive; the proclamation making Thanksgiving Day a holiday; “so help me God” in our courtroom oaths—these and all other references to the Almighty that run through our laws, our public rituals, our ceremonies, would be flouting the First Amendment. We are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being…No constitutional requirement makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against the efforts to widen the scope of religious influence. [Emphases mine]”4
The HHS mandate however, seeks to crush the wall that protects the right of all Americans to exercise their religious beliefs and for us to do so without being harassed and persecuted by the very government that is obligated to defend such freedoms. It will be a new generation of 21st Century patriots—modern day Nehemiahs—who will rebuild it. In the early days of the American Revolution, as well as the biblical narrative referenced above, it was ordinary citizens—volunteers, and those with the vision to see the potential loss of freedom—who moved to the forefront and made a difference. Today, the battle lines and the sense of urgency may seem distant, with companies and organizations we are unfamiliar with. Tomorrow, it will be on our doorsteps, impacting our families and houses of worship if we watch and do nothing.
Pray for the courageous owners of companies such as Hobby Lobby and Hercules Industries who have resolutely stood up for freedom and religious liberty. Pray for the legal defense teams such as Becket Fund who are combating this injustice in the nation’s courts. Pray for successful outcomes with these lawsuits.
Will you with join us? Every voice, every prayer, every contribution you make matters right now.
3Federer, W.J. (Ed.) (1994). America’s God and country: Encyclopedia of quotations. Coppell, TX: FAME Publishing, Inc.