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Rev. Richard Cizik Headshot

If Hobby Lobby Wins, Pro-life Christians Lose

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We now know with certainty that the Supreme Court will announce its Hobby Lobby decision on Monday. This weekend, the craft and home décor store, along with numerous evangelical institutions that have filed briefs in its support -including my former employer the National Association of Evangelicals--are hoping and praying God will favor them with a whole new expansion of religious freedom and the protection of human life. I'm praying for the opposite.

Along with nearly 50 other for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby is demanding the same religious freedoms and protections that each of us has. Hobby Lobby was not endowed by its Creator with certain unalienable rights. It does not have a soul. It cannot have faith. Yet its owners (and their lawyers) insist that it should not have to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act on religious grounds. The Obama Administration reasonably granted an opt-out to houses of worship and other religious nonprofits. Hobby Lobby wants similar treatment.

Evangelical intervention on behalf of the multi-billion dollar corporation, which donates generously to their causes, is wrong for many reasons but here are two major ones: If you are pro-religious liberty and pro-life and family, you can't support allowing a for-profit corporation to use religion to deny contraceptive coverage.

First, supporters of Hobby Lobby think they are helping the Christian faith but are actually harming it. In fact, a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby weakens religious freedom.

When anyone can use religion to claim an exemption on anything, religion loses meaning. Rather than a personal belief embedded in our souls, faith would become a set of arbitrary rules any corporation could choose from to skirt the law.

Is this what evangelicalism needs? I spent nearly three decades in governmental relations at the National Association of Evangelicals defending the free-exercise of religion and the right to life, among many other traditional values. Coming to the aid of for-profit corporations who want to ride on the backs of religion is not one of these honored principles.

Indeed, it is a kind of corporatism invading the body of Christ -- concern not for the "least of these" but the richest of those among us. Is this what Christ would do?
When corporations are allowed the same exemptions that have always been reserved just for churches--whether on health benefits, hiring, or land use--those special protections become less clear and more open for interpretation.

If a for-profit corporation is eligible for legal exemptions on grounds of religious freedom, it puts government in charge of deciding what is or isn't religion. You can just imagine the lawyers who will find work forever litigating these claims. I know, from experience, that their concern for what should be "legal" is not the same as what is "spiritual" or truly serves the interests of the Church.

What if a corporation owned by Jehovah Witnesses refuses to cover blood transfusions? If Christian corporations are allowed to use faith to refuse contraception coverage to women who work for them, what's to stop a Christian Scientist business from refusing to cover any health benefits?

Second, the supporters of Hobby Lobby think they are being "pro-life." They are wrong. A massive study conducted in 2012 showed that contraception coverage without a co-pay could dramatically reduce the abortion rate.

That study, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine, of 10,000 women at-risk for unintended pregnancy found that when given their choice of birth control methods, counseled about their effectiveness, risks, and benefits, with all methods provided at no cost, about 75 percent of women in the study chose the most effective methods: IUDs or implants. Most importantly, as a result, annual abortion rates among study participants dropped up to 80 percent below the national abortion rate.

Well, you might ask, based upon some of the charges being made, aren't the contraceptive methods being funded through the Affordable Care Act, abortifacients? Not if you believe medical science.

In the words of Jeffrey F. Peipert, M.D., Ph.D., the Robert J. Terry Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine, "these contraceptive methods work by preventing pregnancy (fertilization) from occurring in the first place. For instance, the intrauterine device works primarily by preventing fertilization. Plan B (or the progestin-containing, morning-after pill), along with Ella (ulipristal acetate), delay the release of a woman's egg from her ovary. The egg does not get fertilized, which means the woman does not become pregnant."

In sum, Evangelicals supporting Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court are not actually being pro-religious freedom or pro-life. If they win at the Supreme Court, these causes will be damaged in the long run

Richard Cizik is President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Previously, he was Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization he served for 28 years.