(Photo: The Becket Fund)
The Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical Christian denomination, has made it clear that it does not endorse a petition presented by one of its reverends on behalf of a social activist group demanding Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. drop its lawsuit opposing the Health and Human Services "preventive services" mandate.
"The petition advanced by Reverend [Lance] Schmitz regarding the action of Hobby Lobby against the Federal Government are his own views and are not the official position of the Church of the Nazarene, International nor of the Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene. Nor is the Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene associated with Faithful America or Ultraviolet organizations in this regard," Dr. Jim G. Cooper, District Superintendent of the Southwest Oklahoma District of Church of the Nazarene, stated in a press release sent to The Christian Post on Monday.
Last week, the petition against Hobby Lobby was categorized as misleading and wrong by the Becket Fund, a religious freedom law group who is defending Hobby Lobby in the HHS lawsuit.
According to a press release from "Faithful America" and subsequent news reports, a Christian evangelical pastor identified as the Rev. Lance Schmitz of Capitol Hill Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, attempted to deliver the petition to the Hobby Lobby headquarters in Oklahoma City on Thursday and was kicked off the premises and unable to deliver the petition.
Hobby Lobby, a privately held retail chain with 22,500 employees led by a Christian family, filed a lawsuit in early September in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, opposing HHS on the basis that the mandate would force the business to provide, without co-pay, the "morning after pill" and the "week after pill" in their health insurance plan, or face crippling fines of up to 1.3 million dollars per day.
The company is the largest and only non-Catholic-owned business to file a lawsuit against the government's contraception mandate.
Lawyer Kyle Duncan of the Beckett Fund said last week that the petition is misleading. "It makes it seem as if Hobby Lobby is seeking to exclude birth control from its health plan all together. That's just not true. The Green family and Hobby Lobby do not have any religious objection to birth control per se. Their plans have covered preventive contraceptives and will continue to do so," Duncan said.
"What Hobby Lobby objects to and the reason they sued is because the HHS mandate forces Hobby Lobby to include a specific kind of drug," he explained. The drugs are called Plan B and Levonelle, otherwise known as "the morning-after pill" and "the week-after pill."
Cooper also stated the church's support of Hobby Lobby.
"The Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene and the Church of the Nazarene, International affirms our partnership with Hobby Lobby for the good of our communities and all humanity," he said. "The generous and compassionate works of Hobby Lobby to alleviate poverty, injustice and suffering are well known to the Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene and we do not support any form of boycott or petition advocating such. Our relationship with Hobby Lobby in regard to Biblical Christian values is a positive and mutual one."
He added, "As to the views and beliefs regarding the sanctity of human life, the Church of the Nazarene has made it clear in the Manual (the guiding beliefs and polity of the Church) that 'The Church of the Nazarene believes in the sanctity of human life and strives to protect against abortion...All human life, including life developing in the womb, is created by God...and therefore, to be nurtured, supported, and protected. We oppose induced abortion by any means, when used for either personal convenience or population control. We oppose laws that allow abortion."
The petition by Faithful America, an "online community of over 175,000 people of faith taking action on pressing moral issues of social justice and the common good," reads:
"Don't use your Christian faith as an excuse to obstruct health care reform and deny women access to birth control. I won't shop at your store until you drop this lawsuit, and I'll tell my friends to do the same."
Duncan told CP last week that Hobby Lobby is not demanding anything from its employees and will not police anything they do in their private lives. The company leaders want to simply structure their business along the lines of their faith.