THE BLOG
07/28/2014 03:55 am ET Updated Sep 27, 2014

Which View of Christianity Does the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Ruling Defend? What About Sharia Law?

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Injecting the Bible into politics inevitably turns lawmakers into theologians. For example, Tea Party Congressman Stephen Fincher declared last year that, "The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country." Needless to say, not all Christians share Rep. Fincher's opinion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Also, as with any topic that merges politics and religion, there's the muddled issue of interpretation. Do Christians throughout the United States view birth control or abortion as a "substantial burden" to their faith? What about Muslims American citizens who adhere to certain principles of Sharia law? With so many versions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other faiths within the U.S., it might prove impossible to balance everyone's various "religious liberties" alongside laws meant to protect the rights of all Americans.

Religious freedom, if applied to future legislation by the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby verdict, must also now be correlated to religious interpretation. Contrary to GOP pundit Erick Erickson's tweet ("My religion trumps your 'right' to employer subsidized consequence free sex."), Hobby Lobby apparently already "subsidized free sex." According to the Christian Science Monitor, the corporation agreed to pay for all but "four of 18 methods required to be provided to female employees under the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate." The Supreme Court decided that there were certain methods that "substantially burdened" Hobby Lobby's religious beliefs, thus its owner's were not compelled to provide four methods of birth control. The day after the ruling, other cases involving all methods of birth control sought to expand the Hobby Lobby decision. As with all religiously inspired verdicts, the blurry demarcation from four methods to all methods is now subject to whether one's expression of faith is "substantially burdened."

Although Hobby Lobby viewed some of the ACA birth control methods objectionable because they were linked to abortion, not all Christians necessarily share such a view. According to Presbyterian Church USA.org, not everyone in the Presbyterian Church views the Supreme Court's decision in a favorable manner:

The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Office of Public Witness, has expressed dismay at the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

"In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we affirm that each person is created in God's image, and that each woman is endowed with God-given moral capacity and authority to determine whether or not to become pregnant," Nelson said. "Denying any woman the right to exercise that moral agency is wrong. It is because of our faith that we view access to contraception, and all forms of health care, as a human right."

...Presbyterians further profess that God alone is Lord of conscience and that individuals must make decisions in personal and public life that are consistent with their own values, without seeking to coerce others.

As stated by Rev. Nelson, all forms of health care should be provided to women. Also, Presbyterians believe that it's not theologically necessary to impose religious views upon others.

Other Christian groups are even more vocal regarding birth control and the recent ruling. The United Church of Christ views the Hobby Lobby decision as an "affront to the religious liberty of women across the country." Catholics for Choice has declared in How Hobby Lobby Killed Religious Liberty that, "The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision is a disaster for women, and we can lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Obama administration." Red Letter Christians.org explains in You Can Be Pro-Choice Politically and Be A Pro-Life Advocate In Your Community that, "You see, for many of us who are Christians and support choice it is because we believe that it is unfair to try and make people who are not Christians live their lives based on our beliefs." In addition, the Unitarian Church of Texas feels that, "Birth control information and devices ought to be readily accessible to all adults, so that they can make their own responsible decisions about whether and when to have children."

But these organizations and churches aren't real Christians, right? A horrifying chapter in U.S. history shows what happens when people cast such judgment upon other Christians. As described in a CBS St. Louis article, Missouri's 1838 extermination order against Mormons highlights the tragic consequences of allowing government to favor one faith over another:

For 137 years, it was technically legal to kill a Mormon in Missouri. The law was on the books until 1975, when Governor Bond rescinded what was known as the extermination order...

...It declared the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State. Many Mormons left Missouri for Illinois after the order.

When Christians in the 1800s were ready to annihilate and force out another group of Christians in the U.S., the dangers of allowing government to decide the validity of one's faith is supremely evident. Sadly, even Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid was mired with certain pastors denouncing his faith and saying he wasn't a true Christian.

Furthermore, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research estimates that there are around 350,000 church congregations in the U.S. and about 12,000 non-Christian congregations. If religious liberty is truly protected by the Hobby Lobby ruling, then it should apply to everyone, including the 2,595,000 Muslims living in the U.S. According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, many Muslim Americans adhere to versions of Sharia law that are perfectly compatible with American society and laws:

Is Sharia compatible with American law and values?

Many aspects of Sharia or Islamic law are consistent with modern legal rules found in American law. For example, both legal systems allow rights to personal property, mutual consent to contracts, the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings, and the right of women to initiate divorce proceedings.

How do American Muslims follow Sharia?

Many American Muslims, like other religious communities who rely on scriptures and religious principles to guide their life, look upon Sharia as a personal system of morality and identity.

If the Court had ruled 5-4 in favor of a Muslim family's corporation, the paranoid uproar from conservatives would be heard around the world. Republicans in more than a dozen states have already introduced legislation banning state judges from considering Sharia law. According to the Hobby Lobby decision, however, a Muslim-American owned corporation's expression of Sharia law should be treated just like the Christian principles protected from ACA mandates.

Finally, the other day I had the pleasure of appearing on the Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show to debate immigration reform. Interestingly, Rev. Peterson's first two questions were, "Are you a Christian?" and "Do you believe in God?" I eventually explained that I was Jewish, but wasn't certain of God's existence or the relevance of such questions. My answers, however, didn't highlight that I was also in support of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York and wrote a Jerusalem Post article in 2010 defending Muslim Americans. I was there to debate immigration and nothing else, so I didn't explain that although I support Israel, I am still horrified by the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza and I'm also in favor of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

So what does my radio appearance have to do with the Hobby Lobby decision? One's view of their own religion doesn't always conform to the views of others within that religion, nor should it influence the public arena in regards to the rights of other human beings. One American's faith (or lack of faith) should never interfere with another American's desire to receive birth control, or any other mandate under a health care law.

Until God comes down from heaven to advise the Supreme Court on which religious interpretations are truly expressed correctly, it's best to keep "religious expression" away from laws affecting the lives of all Americans; especially if you invest in birth control while denying it to your employees. Also, if you applaud Hobby Lobby, remember to jump for joy when other Americans of faiths different from yours have their religious expression protected at the expense of your health care. As stated by Justice Ginsberg's dissent, "The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?