President Bridges: The Hobby Lobby decision in perspective
Waxahachie, Texas – August 13, 2014 – Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) president Dr. Kermit Bridges gave his perspective on the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision and how it relates to Christian institutions like SAGU. Read below.
This summer our nation celebrated the 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The foundation of the Declaration and the Constitution’s Bill of Rights is the concept of freedom for all men as stated in the opening paragraph of the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This revolutionary statement of truth stood in direct contradiction to the presence of slavery on the continent and thus began a long march of truth that ultimately ended this evil practice. The founders understood religious liberty to be a defining characteristic of a free constitutional republic; therefore this was the very first issue addressed in the First Amendment of the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
In the last several years, we’ve begun to hear individuals refer to this as freedom of worship. A red flag should go up any time you hear that phrase – its intent is to suggest the only religious right this amendment provides for is the freedom to worship behind closed doors in your home or church. The First Amendment does not in any way limit religion to what happens at home or in a church.
No freedoms we enjoy as US citizens are more important to believers as the First Amendment’s safeguard to religious liberty. Despite its clear protections, we see our religious freedom being attacked. For years we’ve been watching the courts restrict religious liberty in our schools and public places by denying the right to display the Ten Commandments, denying a teacher the right to display the national motto, “In God we Trust,” and denying a teacher the right to display a sign with a direct quote from the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.”
Religious Liberty is what the Supreme Court decision concerning Hobby Lobby was all about. If you read the headlines you’d think the Green family was the epitome of corporate greed and leading the so-called war on women by denying its employees access to all 20 of the drugs and procedures that this administration lumps together under the name contraceptives in the Affordable Care Act. Nothing is further from the truth. The Hobby Lobby health plan covers 16 of those 20 drugs and procedures. As to corporate greed, the lowest paid Hobby Lobby employee is paid above the minimum wage level and, on top of that, employees get Sunday off to be with their families.
The Greens believe that life begins at conception and conception occurs at that moment in which an egg is fertilized. They have no problem with contraception that prevents an egg from being fertilized. They object to 3 specific drugs and 1 IUD that the FDA acknowledges can either destroy a fertilized egg or prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the wall of the uterus (which destroys the egg, post-conception).
Hobby Lobby is just the most recent case in the news involving religious liberty. Currently, several Christian entrepreneurs are facing legal action because of their unwillingness to participate in same-sex weddings – a baker in Colorado, a food caterer in Oregon, and a photographer in New Mexico.
The media brands such individuals as bigoted, homophobic, intolerant, and a return to the days of “no blacks allowed,” but such an analysis is unfair and does not represent the truth. In each of these cases the Christian business owners don’t want to turn away gay customers from the majority of their products – they simply don’t want to be forced to contribute to a same-sex marriage ceremony against their religious convictions.
Unfortunately it does not end here. Consider former NFL star Craig James who lost his job as a sportscaster at Fox News because of his views on same-sex marriage. Or Brendan Eich, who lost his job as president of Mozilla because he made a personal contribution in favor of Proposition 8 (legislation passed by a majority of California voters that defines marriage as between a man and woman). Or David and Jason Benham who lost their reality show on HGTV because their views on same-sex marriage are on the so-called wrong side of history.
Like many other evangelical institutions, SAGU shares these same convictions. For years our health plan has not covered abortion procedures or the above referenced abortifacient drugs and devices. We are currently designated as a church auxiliary and are not required to provide access to these objectionable items in our employee health plan, but what if the government suddenly determines we are no longer exempt.
I am fearful that private, faith-based colleges like SAGU may soon be in the cross-hairs if our nation continues on its current course. What if we are asked to compromise our beliefs concerning what the Bible clearly teaches regarding human sexuality and marriage between a man and woman. Who could have imagined a day when the government would threaten to deny our students access to Pell grants and student loans unless the university compromise its religious beliefs.
This is why the Hobby Lobby decision is so significant – it demonstrates that, at least for now, the Supreme Court intends to continue this nation’s 238-year practice of respecting the religious views of its citizens. However, there should be no high-fiving and chest bumping – this was decided by only 1 vote. That means 4 of the 9 justices are willing to overturn 238 years of precedent with regard to matters of conscience. The next president will likely appoint 2-3 more Supreme Court justices and presidents appoint justices that reflect their own ideological perspective. Elections matter! If we live in a country where we can’t express our faith through our business, then we may someday live in a country where we can’t express our faith at all.