The battle to protect the religious freedoms our forefathers guaranteed us in the Constitution took one small step forward with the Obama Administration’s recent ruling that allows faith-based organizations to opt out of the “contraceptive mandate” in the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The ruling serves as both an encouragement to Christians to continue to speak up and a reminder that our freedom to live according to our religious values faces relentless opposition.
When “Obamacare” was signed into law in 2010, religious groups immediately objected to its requirement that all employers provide free contraceptives to their employees. While Catholics oppose any form of contraception, other Christian and religious groups oppose the so-called “morning after pill” because it induces an abortion. In practical terms, this would have meant that the faith-based organization I lead could be paying health care premiums that would give access to a pill that would terminate a pregnancy. That not only violates our Christian values as an organization, but makes a mockery of our belief that every child deserves a loving, caring family.
Despite the widely-held view that the fight against this mandate was futile, the White House buckled to pressure from those who value life. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services representative, changes to the original law came after more than 400,000 comments were sent to the department on the ruling. Who says we can’t influence the decisions of those at the highest levels of our government? Thankfully, we are still a government “of the people,” but if we the people of God do not speak up for our biblical values, we should not be surprised when things do not go our way.
Ultimately, however, this is not so much about contraception as it is about our freedom as Christians to practice our faith. The contraceptive mandate is but one of many efforts to prevent us from living according to our beliefs. In a campaign speech in 2008, President Obama expressed his view that faith-based organizations receiving federal funding should be required to hire people regardless of their personal faith or lack thereof. That hits very close to home because our organization—like most Christian social service organizations—contracts with the government to provide much-needed services to the poor and very “least of these.”
Though I am grateful for this ruling that will no longer force Bethany Christian Services or any other faith-based group to violate our Christian principles or pay a punitive fine for not doing so, the battle to preserve our religious freedom continues. For example, businesses owned by Christians are not covered in this ruling. A last-minute appeal to a federal court spared Hobby Lobby fines of approximately $1.3 million per day because it refused to cave in to this federal intrusion into its Christian beliefs, but a final ruling could still force this mandate on the Christian-owned arts and craft chain.
As infringements on our religious liberty continue, join me in letting our elected representatives know that we expect them to defend the freedoms our founding fathers bequeathed to us.