September 17, 2014


WASHINGTON (BP)-The Southern Baptist Convention's religious freedom entity has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review lower rulings on the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate for the purpose of striking down the controversial rule.

"This is not just a matter for Christians but for all people of good will who recognize the dangers of a coercive state church, including that of a state church of sexual revolution."
Russell D. Moore
In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined seven other groups in asking the justices to review split decisions at the appeals court level on the mandate. The brief calls for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the religious freedom rights of Hobby Lobby and other family-owned businesses that have conscientious objections to a regulation that requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers.

It asks the high court to uphold a lower-court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and its sister corporation Mardel, Oklahoma City-based retail chains owned by the pro-life evangelical Christian Green family. The brief also calls for the justices to overturn a ruling against Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business owned by pro-life Mennonites.

President Russell D. Moore said the ERLC stands with the family-owned businesses "for religious liberty and against the audacity of a state that believes it can annex the human conscience."

"This is not just a matter for Christians but for all people of good will who recognize the dangers of a coercive state church, including that of a state church of sexual revolution," Moore said in a statement to Baptist Press.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce after Nov. 12 if it will grant review in the cases, according to the Christian Legal Society (CLS), which wrote the brief signed onto by the ERLC.

Two factors that appear to favor review by the high court are: 1) The divided opinions by appeals courts, with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver deciding in favor of Hobby Lobby and Mardel and the Third Circuit in Philadelphia ruling against Conestoga Wood, and 2) the requests by both the Department of Justice and Hobby Lobby for Supreme Court review of the same opinion. Hobby Lobby's Oct. 21 petition to the high court was an unconventional move for a party that won in the appeals court.

Kim Colby, CLS' senior legal counsel, cited a third reason for likely Supreme Court review: The mandate's threat to religious freedom.

Of the lower courts' differences, Colby told Baptist Press in a written statement that the justices' main job "is to take cases where there is a 'circuit split' and decide which court reached the right legal and constitutional conclusion, particularly when First Amendment rights are at stake." Read More

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