Harrison talks Hobby Lobby, health care in ‘op-ed’

By Adriane Heins

LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison wrote in a March 24 “op-ed” that he understands that many are tired of hearing in the news about Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts retailer and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a wood-cabinet manufacturer.

Harrison

Harrison

Representatives from both organizations appeared before the United States Supreme Court Tuesday, March 25, after filing a case against the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act and its accompanying Health and Human Services’ mandate. (To read a related Religion News Service story, click here.)

The owners of both companies believe that the act, as well as the mandate, violates their religious beliefs by requiring them to include contraception and abortifacients in the “preventative services” section of their companies’ health-care plans.

And Harrison wrote that he believes that, too.

Titled “Tired of Hobby Lobby?,” the March 24 op-ed encourages LCMS members specifically and Americans in general not to grow weary from discussing these issues.

“They [Hobby Lobby, the HHS mandate, etc.] matter because your country — the United States of America — was founded on the principle that you were born with certain rights: the rights to seek and follow truth, to live according to your beliefs, to worship freely,” Harrison wrote. “And no one, not even the government, gets to tell you how to do that.”

Harrison has been deliberate in voicing his concern with the HHS mandate and its infringement on the rights of Americans. On Feb. 16, 2012, he appeared on a panel with other clergy before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, discussing those issues as well as Americans’ rights to religious freedom.

And his views haven’t changed.

“The government’s distinctions under the mandate don’t make sense. The government does not get to reduce God and the way in which He works down to what happens only in church or worship,” Harrison wrote. “By its definition, religious liberty stipulates that a church — not the government — must be permitted to form its own definition and its own boundaries.”

Encouraging the church and all Americans to stand firm in the support of freedom, Harrison concluded, “Friends, we may be weary. We may be tired. But we must stand together to protect our God-given right to religious liberty. This mandate threatens not only those whose religions specifically compel them to oppose it, but all Americans. We cannot allow our government to define the content of our beliefs or the degree of their significance.”

The “Tired of Hobby Lobby?” op-ed in its entirety also is available at lcms.org/freetobefaithful.

Adriane Heins is executive editor of The Lutheran Witness.

Updated March 27, 2014

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9 Responses to Harrison talks Hobby Lobby, health care in ‘op-ed’

  1. Arthur casci March 25, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    I fully agree that the constitution grants the right to worship true God in the manner we believe Christ taught and I am thankful for it but true freedom comes from Christ and not the constitution and freedom in Christ cannot be taken from me.
    I am not seeing how the health care issue is connected to how I worship. Health insurance is not something taught by Christ. I believe health insurance is a matter of the left hand kingdom and as such is regulated by the left. Health insurance is a recent innovation and has no bearing on baptizing, teaching and making disciples. We do not have to provide insurance to church workers to be church. To put it another insurance does not belong to the essence of church. Are we beginning to confuse the two kingdoms?

    • Rev. Jason P. Peterson March 25, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      Arthur,

      The issue isn’t about health insurance, but rather the protections of religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – not just to religious denominations, congregations, and institutions, but to all Christians to live according to their conscience without government infringement. Because the new heath care legislation requires the provision of drugs that many consider to be immoral, it is a violation of that Christian’s conscience.

      For a Roman Catholic, this would include all contraceptive drugs – and for them to provide such drugs or arrange for them to be provided would be a sin according to their church’s teachings.

      For the rest of Christians, even those who do not object to contraceptive drugs broadly speaking, there is a set of drugs included in the mandate that are intended to, or have the potential to, prevent an embryo from being able to implant in the mothers uterus after fertilization. This would be murder as it directly and intentionally causes the end of the life of a living human, and for a person to provide drugs that cause this, or to arrange for them to be provided, would be to participate in the sin of murder.

      As such, this is a violation of the Christian’s conscience and is prohibited by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. We do not believe that the government grants true freedom (i.e. freedom from sin, death, and eternal punishment), which can only be found in Christ. However, it is just and right that we demand the government honor the protections of the First Amendment and that we also defend the rights of our fellow Christians to live according to their conscience and the teachings of their own churches.

      • Arthur Casci March 25, 2014 at 11:06 am #

        One more item…since when is my conscience the ultimate authority? Pleading conscience opens that can of worms that anyone can plead their conscience and it is virtually an unassailable plea. My conscience is only good if it is in submission to Scripture and our Confessions.

  2. judy stanley March 25, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    Thank goodness you are willing to stand up for our rights and I will too.

    God will bless you!

  3. James E. Metcalf March 25, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    I am not sure how the plaintiffs can argue that they should be able to both enjoy the protections that incorporation provides individual owners and the privileges of personal religious belief within their corporations. It sounds to me like wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. Perhaps the owners should give up their corporations and revert to private ownership.
    Also, I wonder if my sincerely held religious beliefs approved of slavery or polygamy, would President Harrison still argue that the government ought to allow that due to the sincerity of my religious conviction.
    These, no doubt, are issues that the Supreme Court will consider.
    The church once held its beliefs, and suffered for them within a culture that it found hated the ways of Christ’s followers. Sometimes the church also found it had brought the culture into the church and had other problems to work out. Certainly, these are times that call for humility, prayer, love for all and reflection upon the Word of God embodied in Jesus Christ.

    • Rev. Jason P. Peterson March 25, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      James,

      Your note about church and culture is certainly worthy of consideration, as such confusions have caused innumerable errors over the centuries. However, polygamy and slavery are really not valid comparisons. This is primarily because those two issues involve the government prohibiting an act which some churches believe is permitted (but not necessarily commanded). The contraceptive mandate, on the other hand, forces the individual to participate in a sinful act which the Scriptures prohibit. The government may prohibit an act that religion allows, because it is contrary to the public good (such as polygamy) or a violation of another human’s rights (such as slavery). However, it cannot force a person to commit an act which they consider sinful (e.g. Quakers, Amish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. may be exempted from military draft because of their religious convictions).

      There is also the issue of the historicity of the belief. Any attempt to command (not merely to permit, but to actually require) polygamy or slavery by a religion would be a theological innovation with no historical precedent, while the opposition to murdering the unborn is a Christian teaching with continuous testimony in the Church which predates our nation. Peyote use by certain groups of Native Americans is an example of this, as it was upheld as a free exercise of religion because of its historicity, while attempts to overturn Marijuana prohibitions by creating a religious doctrine were denied because the religion had been invented for the purpose of subverting an existing law or was introduced after the initiation of the law.

      Christians are not seeking special treatment in this case, or forcing the government to obey the teachings of the Church, but rather only defending themselves by government intrusion against their conscience by demanding that the government lives up to the protections of religious liberty that are provided in its own Constitution.

  4. Arthur Casci March 25, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    I have to come back always to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Both teach that Law and Gospel, left and right kingdoms must be kept distinct. The way Pres. Harrison is arguing this leads to a confusion of the two. Please read Article XVI of the AC, Article XVI of the ApAcXVI and AC XXVIII. This confusion of the two kingdoms will simply come back to bite us. Also, please get a copy of “The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and the Public Square in the Era of C.F.W. Walther by Cameron A. MacKenzie. This is available on the synod’s web site. Amid great social turmoil Walther stayed very close to Scripture and the Confessions. Romans 13 is the Sedes for our understanding of the two kingdoms and our Confessions are very clear that each is given by God and has its place.

    I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will rule against Hobby Lobby. They are the ones authorized by God to make this decision which is not about the Gospel but about the Law. Will we accept their decision understanding they the court is a mask for God by which he works in the left hand Kingdom.

    The can of worms we open is that Christians who work for atheists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. could be discriminated against on the basis their conscience. What if a Hindu fires a Christian because the Christian eats meat which violates the religious beliefs of the Hindu.

    We are not required by the Gospel to provide birth control of any kind and why are we protesting now and why did we not protest providing birth control pills. Marriage and sex are for children and does not birth control interfere with this purpose and are we not reaping a whirlwind of low birth rates because we have bought into this so called control over my body?

  5. Erin March 25, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    But you MUST understand that some people use birth control, not just for birth control but for other health reasons. My migraine headaches are VERY much hormone driven, being on birth control helps keep the amount and severity of those migraines down. So to have health insurance that would actually HELP me keep the costs of my healthcare down is LOVELY. I don’t believe that my God is one that would want me to suffer anymore than I absolutely have to, do you?

  6. Jan Olson March 26, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    This is all about whether or not people can get the health insurance coverage they need, or if it can be denied to them based on their employers’ politics in the guise of religious belief.

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