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A Hobby Lobby store in Dallas.
Associated Press/Photo by Tony Gutierrez
A Hobby Lobby store in Dallas.

Religious liberty under siege

Religious Liberty | Read this brief to understand the issues involved in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Supreme Court case

On March 25 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a monumental religious freedom case: It will consider for the first time whether companies have religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The two companies that will come before the high court, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, have Christian owners who don’t want to provide abortion-causing drugs under the “Affordable Care Act.” 

Groups from all sides have filed 82 briefs for Supreme Court clerks to read, but the justices themselves are selective and so are WORLD’s busy readers. If you’re just going to read one, take a look at the amicus brief that follows. It’s signed by organizations including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Coalition of African American Pastors, and the Manhattan Declaration, and individuals, including Wayne Grudem, Eric Metaxas, and leaders of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics. —Marvin Olasky


This brief demonstrates, historically and theologically, that requiring a Protestant Christian to choose between violating the Government’s regulations or violating his sincerely held religious beliefs substantially burdens his exercise of religion in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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A fundamental aspect of Christian doctrine is its requirement that faith must govern every aspect of a Christian’s life. As a matter of scriptural teaching, church tradition, denominational requirement, and conscience, the exercise of the Christian religion must guide and determine a Christian’s decisions, choices, words, and deeds, both in private and in every facet of life.

The holistic nature of the Christian faith extends to a believer’s vocation. The Christian doctrine of vocation teaches that all work—whether overtly sacred or ostensibly secular—is spiritual activity, that Christians are called by God to specific occupations and businesses, and that Christians must conduct themselves in their vocations in accordance with their Christian beliefs. A Christian may not simply check his faith at the workplace door. Accordingly, Christian business owners, as a matter of scriptural requirement, are obligated to conduct their business as an expression of their faith and in accordance with the dictates of faith and conscience.

The theological requirement that Christians comply with scriptural commands in their occupation prohibits not only direct and personal wrongdoing, but also the enabling, authorizing, or aiding of another in doing what the Christian believes to be sin. Christian doctrine teaches that one who knowingly aids or abets another’s wrongdoing has himself done wrong. Accordingly, a statute or regulation requiring a Christian business owner’s complicity in conduct that his or her faith teaches is morally wrong forces a Christian into an impossible position and imposes a substantial burden on his or her exercise of religion.


I. Christian doctrine requires that faith govern every aspect of a Christian’s life.

A fundamental aspect of Christianity is its requirement that the Christian faith govern all aspects of the believer’s life. This teaching is drawn directly from the Holy Scripture and stems from the Christian belief that God’s sovereignty extends over every area of human endeavor. See, e.g., Psalm 24:1 (“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”). [All quotations of Scripture herein are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version.] In the words of the English theologian and poet Isaac Watts, God’s “love, so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.” Isaac Watts, The Poetical Works of Isaac Watts, Vol. IV 173 (1782).

Accordingly, Christianity has never limited its reach merely to matters of theology and ceremonial observance. See, e.g., Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 132 S. Ct. 694, 713 (2012) (Alito, J., concurring) (agreeing with the Court’s unanimous opinion that the job duties of a Lutheran minister engaged in education “reflected a role in conveying the Church’s message and carrying out its mission” and observing that “[r]eligious teachings cover the gamut from moral conduct to metaphysical truth.”); Spencer v. World Vision, Inc., 633 F.3d 723 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (finding a Christian humanitarian organization “‘working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice’” was a religious activity); see also Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, 1995, Article 17 (“In all areas of life, we are called to be Jesus’ disciples.”) (emphasis added), available at http://www.mennoniteusa.org/about/confession-of-faith-in-a-mennonite-perspective-1995/article-17-discipleship/; The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article XIII (“God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. … [Christians] are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others.”), available at http://www.sbc.net/‌bfm/bfm2000.asp (all links last visited January 22, 2014).


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