Do people who own businesses have a right to shape their businesses according to their consciences and religious beliefs? This is the question that will be heard in oral arguments today at the Supreme Court in two cases: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. In both cases, the Supreme Court will decide whether the federal government violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) when it threatened religious owners of for-profit corporations with multimillion dollar fines if they did not pay for insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs that the business owners believe terminate human life. (Incidentally, RFRA is the original, federal version of the Arizona law, amendments to which Governor Brewer recently vetoed.) With ironic timing, Mr. Obama will travel to Rome with his 900-strong posse, three airplanes, and 45 cars to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis on Thursday. (I hope they eat some boiled whitefish and carrots together at the Casa Santa Marta.) In a prelude to a potentially frosty meeting, the Vatican’s chief justice, Raymond Cardinal Burke, said in a recent magazine interview that Mr. Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians. Cardinal Burke said that:
The policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies. Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship; that is, he holds that one is free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship, but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions.
Well said, and quite on point, Cardinal Burke. It seems that way to many of us here as well. Please pray for today’s oral argument in the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Mandate cases. The stakes are very high as these cases test whether the United States will remain a pluralistic society that supports a strong religious liberty for Americans of all faiths. I have linked to an important 11 minute video from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (available here) that shows why the HHS Mandate cases protect all people with sincerely held religious beliefs. Please pray for each of the nine Supreme Court Justices as they deliberate on these cases, and for Paul Clement, the former solicitor general of the United States, who is arguing the cases for the owners and their companies. Please also pray for the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian Bookstores, and the Hahn family, who owns Conestoga Wood Specialties, who are challenging the HHS Mandate. For as we have learned in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And oh, how dark and wicked these high places are.