November 1, 2012 | Commentary on Religious Liberty
Such was the last word and prayer of William Tyndale, first translator of the New Testament into English. Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in pre-Reformation England in 1536 because he would not bow to the will of King Henry VIII in religious matters.
Today a company bearing Tyndale's name is asking God to open President Obama's eyes to his trampling of religious liberty in America.
President Obama's Health and Human Services Department (HHS), in implementing the national health care law known as Obamacare, is requiring employers to pay for coverage of sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and birth control in their employee health plans. More than one hundred religious employers have sued the federal government to stop the HHS mandate.
One victim of the HHS mandate is Tyndale House Publishers, one of the world's largest publishers of Bibles. The company named after the 16th-century martyr is suing the Obama administration for immediate relief.
The administration is in the awkward position of arguing that a Bible publisher is not a "religious" employer and so doesn't qualify even for a one-year "safe harbor" from the HHS mandate, much less the flimsy provision that exempts only "houses of worship" from compliance. Such a narrow exemption severely limits the religious freedom of Americans who want to exercise their faith all the time and in every place.
As First Lady Michelle Obama said in another context: "Our faith journey isn't just about showing up on Sunday . . . it's about what we do Monday through Saturday as well." She also helpfully noted that, "Jesus didn't limit his ministry to the four walls of a church."
And yet the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services is effectively dictating that disciples of Jesus cannot follow Him in the way the First Lady described. You don't have to look far to find another private company whose owners are being told by the government to violate their religious principles.
Also suing the government is Hobby Lobby, the fabulously successful, Oklahoma-based crafts chain run on Christian principles (including being closed on Sunday). The first commitment listed in Hobby Lobby's statement of purpose: "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles."
Founder David Green and his family believe that paying for abortion-inducing drugs would violate those principles. The Obama administration seems to believe that by entering the marketplace, the Green family forfeited their freedom to operate according to conscience.
President Obama and other proponents of the HHS mandate suggest that those who oppose the edict want to deny access to contraceptives or abortion drugs. It's important not to be distracted by such claims. Employees would be free to purchase the goods or services with their own money even if opponents of the mandate prevail in court. These business owners simply do not want to be coerced by government to pay for something they believe is immoral.
Thankfully, David Green doesn't face being burned at the stake as Tyndale was if the trial doesn't go his way. But he effectively could be run out of business if he doesn't comply with the government's dictate. With more than 20,000 Hobby Lobby employees, the fine is more than $1.25 million a day.
Green started his business in the early 1970s and worked tirelessly to make Hobby Lobby a successful enterprise of 514 stores. Now he is being asked to violate his conscience to stay in business, since the fine—more than a quarter of his revenue—would overwhelm his profits.
If the HHS mandate is allowed to stand, we will have reached a point where many of our friends, neighbors, and fellow congregants cannot stay in business with a clean conscience.
Lord, please open the President's eyes!
Derrick Morgan is vice president for domestic and economic policy at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
First appeared in Patheos.com.