W. A. Criswell, in The Offense of the Cross, points out,
“The Roman Empire was the most tolerant, the most liberal, the most wise, and the most accurate in its handling of the many provinces and religions of its empire of any kingdom that ever existed. Men could worship, have temples, and do as they pleased. And yet the Roman Empire and the Caesars persecuted the Christians. Why? For one simple reason: the Christian refused to compromise his faith with any other religion whatsoever.”
That refusal to compromise is seen in the response of the apostles themselves to the command not to teach in the name of Jesus: “We will obey God rather than men!” As it was in the beginning, so it is now. Christians in America face another one of those key moments – seen frequently in Scripture and Christian history – of conflict between the commands of civil authority and the demands of their faith. And believers of other traditions are standing with them as well.
The Obama Administration, implementing one of the provisions of “Obamacare,” has declared its intent and goal to increase access to various “preventive services” that include contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. This is an open, publicly-announced plan. Numerous Americans, and the religious traditions they embrace, teach that such “drugs and services” are immoral to use. Therefore, they oppose this plan.
But the conflict goes deeper than that. If those believers are also employers who offer their employees health insurance, the Obama Administration is requiring them to cooperate in the plan by making coverage for those drugs and services an essential part of those health insurance plans.
And that’s where we say “No!” If the government wants to expand access to these immoral – and in some cases lethal – activities, it’s going to need to do it without us. We do not want to be involved.
And that is the argument regarding the HHS mandate, and the theme of the multiple lawsuits that have been introduced against it. We at Priests for Life filed the fourth of what are now dozens of such lawsuits launched both by religious groups and for-profit businesses.
On Tuesday, March 25, the Supreme Court is hearing two consolidated cases on behalf of two of those businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods, run by believers who refuse to cooperate with the mandate. The Court will consider, among other things, whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to for-profit corporations to protect them from this mandate.
In a separate action, the Supreme Court is also being asked to take up the matter of the non-profit and religious entities who object to the mandate, and whose rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act are not in doubt. We at Priests for Life have petitioned the Supreme Court to hear our case, and this Friday, March 28, the Justices will consider whether or not they will do so.
The claim that the government is making is that it is in fact exempting the religious groups like Priests for Life from following the mandate. In fact, President Obama himself addressed this in his February 2 interview with Bill O’Reilly. The President said, “Here’s the way this thing works. All they have to do is sign a form saying they don’t — they are a religious institution —And — and they get what they want.”
In other words, the form we are being asked to sign states that we object to the mandate because of our institutional religious convictions. Then, our insurance policy will not have to include coverage of the objectionable drugs and services.
At first glance, that sounds quite reasonable to sign. But what the government says further is that upon us signing the form, and receiving the names of our employees on the plan, they will make separate provision to cover the objectionable drugs and services. In other words, by signing the form, we are still part of implementing the plan to provide access to those drugs and services. The form is an authorization; our employees are covered precisely because they are our employees. It’s not a matter of who pays for it; it’s a matter of being the gateway to the immoral activities.
President Obama, in his O’Reilly interview, seems to indicate that he understands this. He said, “The problem is they don’t want to sign the form — Because they think that that somehow makes them complicit.” Exactly right. And Mr. President, that’s not only what we and the other religious plaintiffs think; that’s precisely what our religion teaches. And the freedom to follow that teaching is precisely what you and the law need to respect.
All this may seem like a big deal to be making over the signing of a form. But to go back to W.A. Criswell, he points out, “When the Christians were invited just to bow down before the Roman image, their lives could be spared if they would merely take a pinch of incense and put it on the fire that burned in the presence of the image of the Roman Caesar. The Christian died rather than compromise with a pinch of incense.”
Whether it’s about government incense or a government form, we will obey God rather than men.