Monday of this week, June 30, 2014, will be remembered as the day the U.S. Supreme Court struck a significant blow for religious liberty. Both the Hobby Lobby case and Harris v. Quinn were significant wins for the constitutionally protected freedoms that are the birthright of all Americans.
In the Hobby Lobby case, the Green family, devout Christians, had objected to paying for medical insurance for their employees that included birth control measures that were abortifacients – in other words, they caused the abortion of already conceived babies.
In Hobby Lobby, the Court ruled that the Green family did not have to violate their deeply held religious convictions by providing such insurance.
This was a huge win for religious liberty and freedom of conscience. It would have been an even more momentous defeat had the decision gone the other way. Like most Supreme Court observers, I believed their decision would likely be 5 to 4 with Justice Kennedy casting the deciding vote to make the majority. Consequently, I prepared two press statements as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary: one if freedom won, and another if it did not.
Since freedom won, I issued the following statement:
Today's decision is a victory for people of all religious faiths and business owners around the nation. The Supreme Court justices sent the message today that the Constitution still protects those who treasure both their religious convictions and religious freedoms. This is a landmark case that will have historical significance for decades to come, and Christian business owners as well as others of all religious faith can feel secure that they can run their businesses with their faith at the center of all decisions, rather than separating their faith from their business practices and policies because the government tells them they must act counter to their core religious convictions.
If freedom had lost, I would have issued the following statement:
Today's decision is a significant blow to all people of deeply held religious convictions, Christian and otherwise, across the nation. The Supreme Court justices sent the message today that the Constitution does not apply to all, rather only to those who agree with the current politically correct stance. Business owners of religious faith must now decide how they will run their businesses, what they can, in good faith, offer their employees. Sadly, this decision means that many will have to violate their core religious beliefs or close the doors to their businesses altogether.
The contrast between the two statements is stark and compelling and speaks for itself.
In the Harris v. Quinn case, somewhat overshadowed by the publicity surrounding the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court struck a real blow for personal freedom.
Pam Harris is the primary care giver for her 25-year-old son Josh, who suffers from a rare disorder that has left him physically and mentally incapacitated and in need of 24-hour care.
The Harris family receives a Medicaid check for $1,300 each month to help provide for Josh. But because of an edict from Illinois Governor Guinn, the Harrises' home has become the equivalent of a mandatory union shop, with monthly inspections by state employees. In addition, the Harrises had to submit time sheets and detailed information about their son's treatment and condition. The Harrises were required to follow union rules and approximately $90.00 a month was automatically deducted from their Medicaid check to pay compulsory union dues to SEIU.
The Supreme Court in its ruling referenced the First Amendment and declared, "No person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support. The First Amendment prohibits the collection of an agency fee from personal assistants in the Rehabilitation Program who do not want to join or support the union."
As Paul Kersey of the Illinois Policy Institute so aptly put it, "At the heart of Harris v. Quinn is a mom who's struggling to do what is right for her son and protect his supports and services."As Mrs. Harris said, "When it comes to taking public funding intended for people with disabilities, someone has to stand up."
Praise God for moms like Mrs. Harris and citizens like the Green family. The sad and sobering thing about both these Supreme Court decisions is that they were 5 to 4 and not 9 to 0.
Freedom won by a single vote.