Attacks on Hobby Lobby escalate as time of Supreme Court decision rapidly approaches


By Dave Andrusko

Hobby Lobby co-founders David Green and Barbara Green

Hobby Lobby co-founders David Green and Barbara Green

Ever since the Supreme Court appeared to be receptive to a challenge to the Obama mandate which compels employers to provide health coverage for drugs and procedures to which they have moral or religious objections, I’ve followed with great anticipation how one of the plaintiffs would be portrayed.

Both Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. are family owned corporations. Both argue that the mandate, which are regulations adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services under a provision of ObamaCare, violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.

However Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts-and-crafts stores, is much larger than Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite-owned cabinet maker and (comparatively speaking) much more visible.

So with a decision expected in the next few weeks, I took especial care to see how Hobby Lobby could be made to seem somehow suspect, the better to write off any decision that might down in their favor. I offer as one example, “Hobby Lobby aims for Obamacare win, Christian nation,” by Stephanie Simon, writing for POLITICO.

Our single-issue focus is not on the Green family’s commitment to spreading their Christian faith by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a host of philanthropic projects and buildings and institutions. It’s how a family that even Simon writes that “Those who know them unfailingly describe as humble, gracious and reserved. Even their corporate headquarters is exceedingly modest” can be portrayed as having a vision that “is beginning to stir concern, not just among the American Civil Liberties Union and atheist groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but even from some Bible scholars.”

If the family is, as one sympathetic outsider said, “smitten with the Bible,” it’s not difficult to imagine that the ACLU and atheist groups would be sharpening their knives. But what really raises the hackles of the ACLU et al. (and Simon?) is (a) “They’re building a huge museum dedicated to the Bible a few blocks from the Mall in Washington,” and (b) that the family is underwriting a “Bible curriculum they hope to place in public schools nationwide” as an elective.

The problem? According to Simon,

“The plans that have been made public so far — including the high school curriculum — seem aimed at portraying Scripture as historically accurate and an unequivocal force for good, said John Kutsko, executive director of the international Society of Biblical Literature, the oldest and largest organization dedicated to biblical scholarship.

“That approach fails to incorporate the latest scholarship, acknowledge that the Bible has also played a role as a tool of oppression or recognize different religious viewpoints, Kutsko said.

“’It’s a simple, superficial, literal reading of the Bible,’ Kutsko said.”

The Greens must be feared because they are going to locate their museum close the Mall and because they do not portray the Bible as a source of oppression.

But if that isn’t bad enough, “The family does proselytize quite publicly three times a year, taking out full-page ads in newspapers across the country every Christmas, Easter and Independence Day. The ads celebrate the power of faith and direct readers to a toll-free number for Need Him Ministry, a global initiative to bring nonbelievers to Jesus.” At the risk of stating the obvious, does not the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation “proselytize” for their point of view far more than three times a year? And what is wrong with that?

Let’s circle back to the beginning. The Greens have a religiously-based opposition to the Obama mandate. It ought to be their right to fight as vigorously as they wish for religious liberty and against governmental intervention in matters of religious conscience without allusions that they are doing something untoward.

While the Greens are not Catholic, it’s important to remember that the Catholic community has led the way in the battle against the Obama mandate. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, has described the HHS mandate as “belligerent, unnecessary, and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief.” The following is an exchange he had with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online

LOPEZ: How can Catholics save religious liberty in America? How can they work ecumenically — and with those of no faith — to do so?

CHAPUT: The most important thing they can do is realize that constitutional guarantees are just scraps of elegant prose unless people fight to keep them alive. This country has no special immunity to anti-religious bigotry in our courts and legislatures. If we don’t press our lawmakers to defend the rights of religious believers and communities, then we’ll lose those rights. It’s already happening.

And one more excerpt:

LOPEZ: Why the [Herman] Melville quote — “Truth is like a threshing-machine; tender sensibilities must keep out of the way”?

CHAPUT: The public discourse of Catholics needs to be guided by charity and respect for others, but above all by truth. The truth can be difficult, so we often want to soften its edges. But this just wastes time and compounds our problems. Candor can be uncomfortable in the short run, but it’s much healthier in the long run.

The point is this: We need to be frank with each other as Christian adults, frank in our public witness and frank in our own self-criticism. Again, we also need to be prudent and kind — but not at the expense of courage, and not at the expense of speaking the truth.

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