WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's religious freedom entity has called for prayer in a U.S. Supreme Court case that promises to provide a landmark decision on church-state relations.
"The government wants us to sing from their hymn book, 'Onward, Sexual Revolutionaries,' but we can't do that."
–- Russell D. Moore
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and its president, Russell D. Moore, urged Southern Baptists and others to pray as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments Tuesday (March 25) in a consolidated case involving challenges by two family-owned corporations to the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate. The justices' opinion on that rule, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices for their workers, will determine whether Christians and other religious adherents are free to exercise their beliefs in operating their businesses.
The case involves Hobby Lobby, the nationwide retail chain owned by evangelical Christians, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business owned by pro-life Mennonites. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, who own Conestoga Wood, contend the federal regulation violates their consciences and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.
"This case will set the tone for the next hundred years of church-state jurisprudence in this country," Moore wrote at his blog Sunday (March 23). "This case will tell us whether we've bartered away a birthright paid for with our forebears' blood."
The federal rule in question -- issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the 2010 health-care law -- mandates employers pay for coverage of contraceptives, including ones that can induce abortions, for their workers. Objections to the regulation failed to produce either a retraction from HHS or adequate conscience protections requested by religious liberty proponents.
Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood and about 300 others –- some for-profit corporations and some non-profit organizations -- combined to file 94 lawsuits against HHS. A major question the Supreme Court will consider is whether owners of for-profit companies can exercise their religion in the conduct of their businesses. They cannot, the Obama administration has argued during the legal challenge.
"The government is telling the Hobby Lobby owners, the Green family, that their free exercise rights aren't relevant because they run a corporation," Moore wrote in calling for prayer. The federal government also is telling the Hahns and others "that what's at stake is just the signing of some papers, the payment of some money," he said.