Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is imprisoned in Iraq for practicing his Christian faith, and the Green family, the Hobby Lobby owners who are fighting the Obama administration for the right to run their business according to their religious beliefs, were honored Wednesday at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.
Naghmeh Abedini, Saeed's wife, was there to accept the Richard Land Distinguished Service Award on her husband's behalf.
Russell Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, praised Saeed Abedini as a "joyful Cross-bearer" who "has stirred the Church to stand up and speak out" and "will leave a legacy for generations to come." Moore also praised the "heroic response" of Naghmeh Abedini "to the heartbreaking imprisonment of her husband."
Moore presented the Green family with the John Leland Religious Liberty Award.
In a case that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on later this month, Hobby Lobby sued the Obama administration over its birth control mandate, which requires most employers to provide coverage for emergency contraceptives. Since these drugs may cause an abortion, paying for those drugs would be in violation of the religious and pro-life views of the Green family, who are Southern Baptists.
"It would be really easy," Moore said, "for the Green family to say, 'lets just submit to that,' but because of their strong faith in Jesus Christ, and because of their courage, the Greens have refused to comply with the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services' mandate under the Affordable Care Act that they provide employees with insurance coverage for what they believe to be abortion inducing drugs. Because they believe that God is the author of human life and that every human life from the moment of conception is sacred and they believe that the government is not the lord of their consciences."
The John Leland award, Moore explained, is named after a "Baptist evangelist who said the greatest threat to an imposition on conscience is the gospel of Jesus Christ."
After the awards were presented, Ronnie Floyd, president-elect of the SBC, led the attendees in a prayer. He prayed for Abedini's release and that the Supreme Court would rule in Hobby Lobby's favor.