The Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court is a political issue that resonates with women. It is not only an issue for single women, but also for married couples. Most Protestant denominations do not have deep theological objections to the use of birth control. Many Protestant denominations regard the use of birth contol by married couples as a responsible and loving way to provide the best possible lives for children. The Hobby Lobby decision favors Roman catholic theology, not some sort of generic Protestant fundamentalist belief. This should be clearly understood if this court decision is used as a political issue.
The Roman catholic church has decided that birth control is a sin and has been promoting this idea aggressively for many years.
In 1963, Pope John XXIII established a commission of six European nontheologians to study questions of birth control and population. John died the same year and was succeeded by Pope Paul VI, who released the encyclical Humanae Vitae, or “Of Human Life,” in 1968.
If for any reason Catholic couples want to space out their children, Paul said “it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier.”
The Hobby Lobby decision was made by five male Roman catholics who claim that large, for-profit corporations can deny health care coverage providing birth control for female employees. Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent that this decision could logically be extended to allow employers to deny affordable health care access to their employees on the basis of the religion of the corporation. She listed several types of medical care that could be denied to employees on the basis of the company religion even if the employees are not members of that faith.
Would the exemption the Court holds RFRA demands for employers with religiously grounded objections to the use of certain contraceptives extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations (Christian Scientists, among others)?31 According to counsel for Hobby Lobby, “each one of these cases . . . would have to be evaluated on its own . . . apply[ing] the compelling interest-least restrictive alternative test.”
The decision by the five male Roman catholic justices was only intended to be in favor of limitation on health care when it forces conformation to their own religious preferences. They specifically ruled that people of faiths other than their own do not necessarily have a right to impose religious beliefs on employees. Their decision said:
This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.
Religious reasoning was used to reach this decision.
in footnote 34 Justice Alito cites Fr. Henry Davis's book Moral and Pastoral Theology (1935) as the source of certain supposedly legal reasoning in the text of the majority's ruling. The Roman Catholic Church has a long tradition of carefully worked out moral reasoning about formal and material cooperation with supposed evil.
So let us pause now and savor this. The five Roman Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court of the United States have drawn on their familiarity with Roman Catholic moral reasoning to write the majority ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.
This was essentially a decision of the catholics, by the catholics, for the catholics. The Supreme court has required reconsideration of cases where Roman catholic companies were told they could not deny birth control services to employees. Clearly five men on the Supreme Court feel that it is reasonable to force their religious beliefs about birth control on other people even if those people do not choose to be members of their church.
Cases ordered reconsidered in appeals courts:
Autocam Corp. v. Burwell. The Catholic owners of a Michigan company that manufactures products for the auto and medical supply industries objected to all forms of services covered by the mandate.
Gilardi v. Department of Health & Human Services. Two Catholic brothers who operate two Ohio companies that distribute fresh foods objected to all forms of preventive services.
Eden Foods v. Burwell. The Catholic owners of an organic food company in Michigan objected to all forms of preventive services.
Cases where the Roman catholic company won the right to force their beliefs on employees have now been allowed to stand.
Burwell v. Korte. Government appeal. This case involved two Catholic families — one owning a construction company in Illinois, the other a vehicle safety manufacturing company in Indiana, who objected to all preventive services mandated. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the challenges of both groups of owners and their companies. Review denied.
Burwell v. Newland. Another government appeal. This case involved the Catholic owners of a Colorado heating and air conditioning company, who objected to all services under the mandate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, applying its decision when the Hobby Lobby case was before it, upheld the challenges of the owners and their company. Review denied.
Roman catholic individuals have every right to decide whether or not to make personal use of birth control. Many of them use birth control themselves and even get abortions. The rest of us should also be allowed to make our own decisions based on our own beliefs. The rest of us should not be forced to conform to the religious beliefs of the controlling majority on the Supreme Court. This issue not only affects single women, but interferes with access to birth control by married couples.
The Hobby Lobby decision allows a for-profit company to force the Hobby Lobby religion on employees of other faiths or no faith. The Green family control the closely-held Hobby Lobby corporation. The Green family come from the Church of God and a Southern Baptist background. These churches do not have any unified objections to the use of birth control by married couples.
The United Church of God is a relatively conservative Christian church. The published view of the United Church of God encourages family planning as part of a loving relationship between a husband and a wife.
Our Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension booklet points out: “The idea that sex was dirty and evil was an idea that crept into Christianity from early Catholic teachers. Their compromise with the obvious reality that sexual activity was necessary to have children resulted in their teaching that sex should only be engaged in by married couples when they wanted to have children. Yet there is no such instruction in the Bible.
“Genesis:2:24 says, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh [have sex].’ Proverbs:5:15-19 encourages couples to enjoy sexual pleasure together within marriage. Paul says that husbands and wives should render the sexual affection due each other—refraining only during times set aside for prayer and fasting (1 Corinthians:7:3-5).
“No passage in the Bible forbids husbands and wives from having sex for pleasure when not trying to conceive children. There is nothing wrong with couples using contraceptive methods, provided they are not physically harmful, to postpone having children until the time of their choosing.”
There is some disagreement in Pentecostal churches about the use of birth control, but people who do not like the views of one pastor can find a more sympathetic church where they feel more at home. A letter asking advice from a Pentecostal pastor with a newspaper column gives a reasonable idea of the range of attitudes that Pentecostals may hold:
I am a Jamaican living in New York and I believe in God to the fullest. I grew up in the Pentecostal church. I have a niece back home in Jamaica who is also a Pentecostal Christian. She just recently got married and has a child. She is a registered nurse. The thing is that she has decided not to have any more children for now and is on birth control. Her pastor is preaching against Christians taking birth control.
When I heard about it I was saying there is nowhere in the Bible that says taking birth control is a sin. And, what hurts me the most is the pastor told her that she cannot worship at the church anymore.
The Pentacostal pastor answered:
Pastors who preach that their members should not take contraceptives cannot prove from the Scripture that what they are saying is doctrinally sound. I feel that such preachers are wasting their time and trying to fool the people. So tell your niece that she has the right to limit the number of children that she would like to have. And if contraceptive is the method she chooses to use, she should continue to do so.
In the past Southern Baptists had very progressive views about birth control and even about abortion.
In 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution supporting legislation to “allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental and physical health of the mother.”
A resolution in 1974 affirmed that stance as “a middle ground between the extreme of abortion on demand and the opposite extreme of all abortion as murder.”
There has been a steady movement by the Southern Baptists toward the theology of the Roman catholic church ever since. The effort to harness political power by using Protestant fundamentalists makes this remake of Protestant views politically convenient.
Opposition to birth control is growing in conservative Evangelical groups who rely more heavily on Catholic teachings, so birth control still remains controversial. Some oppose all forms of contraception short of abstinence while others allow natural family planning but oppose other methods. Some sects even support any form of birth control that prevents conception but are against any method that keeps a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. In 1954, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America stated that “to enable them to more thankfully receive God’s blessing and reward, a married couple should plan and govern their sexual relations so that any child born to their union will be desired both for itself and in relation to the time of its birth.”
The nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists, uphold the use of some methods of family planning by married couples. The denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission helps ensure that the church can find ways to apply biblical truth to moral, public policy, and religious liberty issues. This creates a biblical model as a framework through which Christians can evaluate the moral and religious liberty issues confronting families in modern culture. The church believes that the use of birth control, as a means to regulating the number of children a couple has and as a means to space out the ages of the children, is a moral decision that is left up to each couple. However, Southern Baptists stipulate that a couple uses a form of contraception that prevents conception.
The Vatican has been involved in the effort to reduce availability of birth control and to decrease the use of birth control by Protestant fundamentalists.
Pope Francis met Monday (March 31) with members of the Green family, the Oklahoma billionaires whose company, Hobby Lobby, took their challenge to Obama’s contraception mandate to the Supreme Court last week.
The Greens are in Rome for the launch of one of their traveling exhibits, “Verbum Domini II” (Latin for “The Word of the Lord”).
“The purpose of the meeting was to thank the pope for the loan of items to the exhibit from the Vatican museum and library,” said Jennifer Sheran of DeMoss, the Atlanta public relations firm that represents the Greens. “The pope did ask how the (Hobby Lobby) case was progressing.”
Eighteen members of the Green family met with the pope, Sheran said, as well as 10 members from the American Bible Society. The meeting lasted 30 minutes.
Clearly there has been high level Vatican involvement in the effort to keep women in the US from having financially reasonable access to birth control. Roman catholics have the right to make their own personal decisions about birth control, but they do NOT have the right to impose their religious beliefs on others. Moral hazard of financing faith did not seem to be a problem for this Supreme Court when government tax money was given to private religious schools.
The Roman catholic church has opposed the use of birth control for much of my lifetime. This is not the case for most Protestant churches. Sex within the confines of Protestant marriage does not tend to be regarded as sinful and family planning is commonly regarded as responsible concern for the welfare of children. Different Protestant churches have widely different views, since many denominations allow the congregations of each church choose the minister. The Vatican gets to decide the policy for the entire Roman church.
The Vatican requires all members to believe certain speech by their leader (the Pope). It is the official, formal teaching by this organization that most birth control methods are immoral and should not be permitted. Unlike many Protestant churches that are run democratically, the Roman church has official positions. People who are not members of the Roman church have every right to object when this church claims it is universal and has a right to force its beliefs on everyone else.
Denial of birth control to married Protestant couples is an invasion of the sanctity of their marriage. The imposition of the Hobby Lobby religion is not just an issue for single women. Negative comments about Protestant fundamentalists when this issue is discussed are not likely to win any of their votes, especially in the South.