Why Hobby Lobby Decision Matters for All American


There are two major stories whose trajectories are coalescing toward a permanent loss of religious liberty in the United States. The first story is the on-going saga known affectionately as Obamacare. The second story is more subtle, under the radar, but perhaps more damaging in its scope. It is the story of code enforcement. Let me explain these in order.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed in June 2010. Certain provisions did

Obama Signing Healthcare Law Obamacare into effect

not take effect immediately. One of those delayed provisions was the Health and Human Services mandate for contraceptive coverage. Now that this mandate is in effect, businesses and other entities nationwide are suing the federal government to demand an exemption on the basis of conscience.

The latest business to join in the lawsuits is Hobby Lobby. They are the first evangelical Christian business to join the fray, but hopefully they will not be the last. In all, there are27 different lawsuits in the courts on this issue.  The objection is to the mandate’s insistence that all companies (and Christian schools) provide insurance coverage (without co-pay) for abortifacient drugs like the morning after pill or the week after pill.

The Obama administration is arguing two basic points germane to religious liberty. First, they argue that Christians must abandon their religious liberty when they choose to enter the commercial marketplace. This argument is based on their second argument, which is that religious liberty extends only to official houses of worship, not to individuals in their diurnal affairs. In other words, religious liberty (according to the Obama administration) means an American can go to a facility on Sunday and do his worship thing there without government interference (except for theaforementioned tax code restrictions), but he mustn’t think his liberty extends beyond the building.

The Obama administration clearly does not believe in religious liberty at all.  Instead, they believe in restricting religious liberty to “houses of worship” only.  Arguing for this view of religious liberty would be like arguing that a prisoner is actually free because he can do whatever he wants (inside his cell).  This is a radical departure from American history and reflects more of a communist view of religious freedom than an American one.

Communist Chinese flagIn China, for example, Christians are “free” to join the public, Three-Self Patriotic Church and worship there—in that “house of worship.”  They are not free to gather in homes or worship elsewhere. They certainly are not free to carry their Christianity into the workplace or the university. The defense of the Health and Human Services mandate of Obamacare rests upon such a demolition of religious liberty.

In addition to the Obamacare drama unfolding, there is a second stream of American stories all pointing to the same enslaving end. There is a rash of code enforcers around the nation taking aim at house church gatherings. We have seen instances of this in Illinois, California, Arizona, and now it has come to Florida as well.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, is representing the Florida couple who is being threatened with a $250/day fine for having a small group (6-10) in the home for a Bible study.

Dacus says“They are having a specific problem with this family solely because they are having family and friends over to read the bible and pray.  That may be fine in some tyrannical parts of the world. That is not okay in the United States of America.”

The idea behind the code enforcers is the same as the idea promoted by President Obama: Keep your Christian God in a box. Go to your church building and do the Christian thing, but don’t bring the subject up at your work or your home. This is a Communist view of freedom, which, of course, means this is no freedom at all.

Code by code, insurance plan by insurance plan, America is shutting out its Christian past and killing the concept of liberty and justice for all.

Who Is Paul Schneider and Why Should We Care?


I have been reading recently about the upcoming challenges to Obamacare in the Supreme Court.  Liberty University has re-filed a case at the direction of the Supreme Court on the basis of Christian liberty. What exactly can the government compel a religious organization to do? That is the question before the court.

Church-state relations typically bring my mind back to Paul Schneider.  Paul Schneider today is all but forgotten, though his Paul Schneider Nazi Martyr Christian persecutionfaithfulness is certainly worthy of being remembered.  Schneider was married to Margaret Dieterich (whom he affectionately called Gretel). With her, he had six children, five sons and a daughter.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer once called him “our first martyr.” Bonhoeffer was correct. Paul Schneider was a martyr in the truest sense of the word.

In fact, Schneider was the first Christian martyred by the Nazi regime in Germany.  His life and death speak volumes regarding faithfulness through persecution. Specifically, Schneider ran afoul of the Nazi government when he spoke out against a Hitler Youth leader during a funeral service.  The leader attempted to introduce non-Christian ideas into the otherwise Christian funeral ceremony, to which Schneider protested in order to maintain the reverence of the service.

Schneider was the presiding minister at the funeral and, thus, had every right to protest the introduction of non-Christian ideas such as a “Horst Wessel Troop” waiting to welcome the young man who had died into heaven. After the service, Schneider sought to reconcile with the officer, but it was too late. He was arrested. This would be the first of four arrests for Paul Schneider.

After his third arrest, Schneider was issued a warrant from the Nazi authorities which stated in unequivocal terms that he could not return to his flock at Dickenshied to pastor.  He was free to leave prison, but he could not any longer preach at Dickenshied. So, Schneider had a dilemma.

I can imagine in our day that pastors would simply say, “Okay, I’ll go preach somewhere else.”  If we were commanded not to preach any longer in Kentucky, we would say, “Fine, I’ll just preach in Indiana or Tennessee.”  Would this have been the right response for Schneider?  Should he have accepted the exile order and left for greener (less dangerous) preaching pastures?

Schneider agonized over the question, spending at least one sleepless night in prayer over this topic alone. There were two obstacles in his mind preventing him from accepting the government’s orders not to preach. First, he had never actually been found guilty of any crime. In fact, no charges were ever made formally against him.  His arrests were supposedly for “protective custody.”  How could he obey a sentence for a crime which he was never charged with committing?

The second obstacle for Schneider was the more formidable impasse to obeying his order not to preach in his home church.  In a manner quite akin to that of Peter and John in Acts 5, Schneider had to decide whom he would obey: God or men? Like the Apostles, he chose to obey God rather than men and, thus, set himself on a course of direct clash with the Nazi government.  Schneider believed it was Christ Himself who had called him and appointed him to the pastorate. Thus, it was an affront to Christ for anyone–including the Nazi government–to decide where Schneider could and could not preach.  Schneider did preach in his church at Dickenshied, and the Nazi government did follow through with their threats.

Schneider was again arrested and taken from his sweet Gretel and the children.  He was taken to the new “labor camp” at Buchenwald, where  

Finally, on 18 July 1939, the starved, beaten, bleeding Paul Schneider died when the camp doctor injected a massive overdose of strophanthin. Paul was forty-one years old. Gretel became a widow at the age of thirty-five.

The Nazi guards were cold and ruthless, offering his wife a 24 hour window to claim the body before turning it to ashes. Even after she arrived, the Nazis sealed the coffin shut and kept it under armed guard so Gretel and the rest of the outside world would never see (nor hear from) Paul Schneider again.  Fortunately for us, his faith still speaks.

Paul Schneider's cell in Buchenwald

Paul Schneider was called “Pigheaded” by his guards because he would not accept the government’s command not to preach in Rhineland churches. Was he pigheaded? Stubborn? Sinfully defiant against the government? Too bold or audacious?

For Schneider’s part, he did not think so. In his mind, the matter boiled down simply to, “Whom should I obey, God or man?”  We may all face this question some day, even in America. Will we answer as this great man did?

(To read more on Schneider the martyr, see here)

Fairness Is Not Justice: Three Simple Reasons to Reject Fairness


Justice not FairnessOnce upon a time, our laws were based on justice: “With liberty and justice for all.”  Now, it seems there is a sense of “fairness” encroaching upon our liberty and overtaking justice for all.  Many folks equate one term with the other, thinking that fairness and justice are equally compelling concepts of liberty, but they are not. Here are three important reasons to seek justice in our laws, not fairness.

First, fairness is not a fixed concept. Justice is. Fairness rises and falls with the political fortunes of special interests. Instead of being one fixed, eternal truth to which all attain, fairness is a roaming gnome of special rights given to certain classes of individuals.

Fairness grabs rights for Hispanics (but not Asians?).  Fairness snatches rights for Muslims (but not Hindus?)—for gays and lesbians (but not the celibate or the polygamists?).  Fairness is not fixed in anything eternal.  Think of it in terms of a family.

One child has a birthday party and gets gifts from mom and dad. Another child in the family screams “That’s not fair!” Well, in a sense it is not fair for two equal siblings to be treated differently.  Yet, when the matter is considered from a broader perspective—that of justice—it becomes plain that the parents are perfectly just to give gifts to their children when and how they desire.  No injustice has occurred, even though one child believes his fairness has been violated. Justice fixes truth in institutions and in eternal reality. Fairness fluctuates with the feelings and infatuations of child-like adults. It is not fixed.

Second, fairness is not blind; justice is. As stated above, fairness singles out sub-classes of humanity for particular justice not fairness attention.  By definition, it is not blind. It sees color. It sees sexual preference. It sees—and envies—what others possess.  Fairness cannot maintain unity because it sees too much; it offers preferences too conveniently.

When the United States Supreme Court building was completed in 1935, it featured a prominent engraving to justice across its façade: “Equal Justice Under Law.”  And so, America has historically been a place which sought to call all people equally to the one eternal standard of Justice. Fairness was nowhere etched in Supreme Court stones (and for good reason). Justice is blind; fairness is not.

Finally, Fairness is just not just. I know this sounds circular, but the point must not be missed. Justice is real; it is rooted in an eternal God whose ways are right.  Just as moral law comes from the moral lawgiver, so, too, justice ultimately abides in the one who Himself is just.  Justice is an eternal, divine order to which we all should attain.

Fairness, on the other hand, is a very petulant human standard which we must all exceed. We must be willing to forego our own peevish demands of personal affluence and, instead, call our fellow Americans to uphold justice.

Justice is discovered from within reality.  Fairness is imposed by force on humanity.  Fairness must be imposed by might, not by what is right. It is a political power play, not an eternal truth display.  So, please, let us return to equal justice for all under the law. Exchanging justice for fairness is more foolish than a child offering to trade his family for a shiny, new penny. It’s a sad exchange.

Court rejects D.C. same-sex marriage case – UPI.com


Court rejects D.C. same-sex marriage case – UPI.com.

I am not yet sure what exactly this decision by the Supreme Court means.  I am trying to find information and do a little more research on it.  My first response was a disappointed shock, as in, “Why have John Roberts as Chief Justice if he is unconcerned about important social issues such as the definition of marriage?”

However, as I have thought about the matter a little more, I have begun to suspect that there are mitigating circumstances here, particularly because the case is centered in Washington, D.C.  The case ends up being about the legality of a referendum as much as it is about the state of gay marriage.  While it is possible–even in D. C.–that a referendum would support traditional marriage (as happened in California), it is still not necessarily the case that Bishop Harry Jackson’s appeal for a referendum is legally clear.  Thus, the SCOTUS would be wise not to wade into a district legal matter.

I am not sure.  If anyone has better information, please let us know about it.  I hope to follow up with a better response to the news that Justice Roberts chose not to review this case.  Washington, D. C., has been granting marriage licenses since 2009 by vote of the city council.