The HHS mandate forcing religious organizations to act against their deeply-held beliefs was a major story for Christians in 2012. And alas, it will remain a struggle here in this new year. During today's broadcast, John Stonestreet welcomes Matt Bowman and Emily Hartman, two folks engaged in fighting back, to update us on the situation, and the most serious threat to our freedom as Christians right here in America.
Matt Bowman, ADF
Just what are the limits of our government, especially when it comes to freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment? Well apparently the present administration would beg to differ with the intent of our founding fathers.
"If any of us were waiting for the 2012 election to change some of the threats to religious liberty we've reported on from the Colson Center over the last year, that hope is no more," says John Stonestreet. "We need to again talk about the threats to religious liberty, in particular the Health and Human Services mandate that threatens to not only force religious employers both for-profit and non-profit to violate their consciences, but also to redefines in law a definition of religious group..."
Emily Hardman, Becket Fund
To bring us up to speed on this complicated and often misunderstood issue, John invites Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Emily Hartman, communications director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Both organizations have worked tirelessly to represent in court the businesses and non-profit organizations suing the administration over its dangerous and unprecedented mandate which requires employers to provide services contrary to their beliefs.
The Bucket Fund, says Hardman, is currently representing forty-three separate cases against the mandate, including thirteen for-profit business. This is critical, she says, because of the radical redefinition the Obama Administration has engaged in when it comes to religious liberty.
"This mandate is a part of Obamacare in which federal bureaucrats have decided to pick and choose what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and when faith can be practiced," says Bowman, explaining why this redefinition came about.
And that, argues John Stonestret, is what's so disturbing about the legislation, which Christians of conscience have been petitioning the administration to change for months. The definition of "religious freedom" which the mandate advances (and which a number of federal courts have backed) insists that people of faith give up their right to live out their religious beliefs as soon as they set foot in business or charity work.
"I've been standing in the presence of three different judges," says Bowman, "and each time the Obama Administration's Department of Justice has shown up to argue that people of faith do not even have religious freedom when they walk into their office Monday mornings. [They say] that religious freedom really only happens at church, and elsewhere, you check your faith at the door."
But we at the Colson Center have, along with groups like ADF and the Becket Fund, been making this threat known for close to a year now. Is it really still an issue?
Hardman, who has kept abreast of the battle since its beginning, answers with a resounding yes. She also debunks two common misunderstandings which have prevented larger numbers of believers from getting involved.
First, she says, this simply isn't a "Catholic-only" issue.
"There are actually more Protestant universities suing right now than there are Catholic institutions," she says. And although evangelicals' convictions may not lead them to oppose a birth control mandate per se, Hardman points out that religious freedom must be freedom for all, or none. This is why institutions like Tyndale House Publishers, Louisiana Baptist College, Biola University, and countless Protestant-owned businesses (to name a few) have thrown their hats into the ring in opposition to the mandate.
Another common misconception Hardman debunks is that the current exemption offered in the HHS mandate is sufficient for business owners and charities not willing to dispense contraceptives.
"What we have here is a religious exemption so narrow that Mother Teresa's ministry wouldn't even qualify," she explains. "Basically what it says is, to get an exemption, you have to employ people only of your faith, serve people only of your faith, and your sole purpose has to be the inculcation of faith. So the second you go out to serve someone not of your faith, for example you serve in a soup kitchen...you lose that religious exemption and you are subject to this mandate."
Crushing fines also ensue, which plaintiffs now engaging in civil disobedience, such Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, may soon face.
"This is a clash of worldviews," says John. "And there's no neutral space here. The bigger the government gets, the smaller religious involvement can be."
This issue isn't going away by itself, and there's never been a more critical time than now for Christians to act en masse. That's why we're keeping you posted with regular updates on our HHS mandate section here at the Colson Center. In addition, Alliance Defending Freedom and The Becket Fund offer up-to-date information through an exhaustive Obamacare fact sheet and the HHS Mandate Information Central. Bowman and Hardman also urge our listeners to take specific action by jumping into the effort and becoming plaintiffs, or by just supporting these not-for-profit organizations. You can visit both websites at www.becketfund.org, and www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org. To see if your business or institution should file suit in support of religious liberty, call 1-800-TELL-ADF.
Many of us hoped last year's election would solve this problem. But those hopes proved in vain. Now the time has come for us to stand up for our first freedom by taking advantage of every legal recourse given to us by this country's founders. And if all else fails, we must be willing to stand together and refuse to participate in what our consciences condemn. We must never render unto Caesar what is God's.