Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Hobby Lobby's stance isn't really about 'religious freedom'

If you believe that Hobby Lobby merely wanted to preserve “religious freedom” by opposing a contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, you really, really need to think again.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Bill Clinton two decades ago and upon which the company’s claim was based, really was intended to protect certain rituals that had been declared illegal (such as certain Native American tribes using peyote, a controlled substance).

The company, which top management claims to run by consistent Christian principles, complained that under the ACA it would be forced to cover certain types of contraceptives that it considered tantamount to abortion. I understand and, to a certain point, agree with that.

Here’s the problem: HL imports a lot of goods from China, which only recently has relaxed its notorious “one-child-per-household” policy, which resulted in millions, if not billions, of abortions through the years. It seems to me that, if it wanted to make a religious statement, it wouldn’t do business in China in the first place unless and until that policy was abolished.

Some people have said that HL wouldn’t be able to stay in business if it took that stand. And that’s where the whole “religious freedom” defense falls apart — because operating by consistent Christian principles in this case would represent an inconvenience, in this case affecting its bottom line.

Pardon me for being a tad cynical, but in over 30 years I don’t recall any conservative Christian group that has argued, fought or worked for the freedom, religious or otherwise, for anyone except conservative Christians, whose real goal appears to be cultural authority. That, however, isn’t delineated anywhere in Scripture.

Liberal groups, on the other hand, appear to be more willing to put their money where their mouth is. In the 1980s many encouraged businesses and governmental entities to divest from companies doing business in South Africa due to that country’s unjust-by-any-standard apartheid system over the objections of many conservatives, some who said that doing so would hurt blacks and others fearful of a Communist takeover. Earlier this year, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to divest from Israel because of its political treatment of Palestinians.

Whatever your stance on those issues and whether their actions would have any effect, they decided that they weren’t going to be a party to what they saw as immoral actions on the part of governments — even if doing so cost them money or stature.

I’m sure that Hobby Lobby has taken some heat for its stance; I know that others have defended it. But don’t think for a second that it’s the result of purely religious convictions.

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