By Russell Moore, The Hill.
Turn on cable television and you’ll likely see people screaming at each other. Log on to your Facebook page and you’ll experience a similar reality. With all the fuming controversy in America, why would we stir up culture wars where we don’t really even need them? That’s the question the Supreme Court will take up next week.
Before the Court, our federal government will argue that it can force religious ministries to help provide things the government itself can and does provide. The “things” in question are abortion-inducing drugs and other contraceptives. And the religious ministries sincerely believe that they cannot do what the government demands. Some of these ministries are, like me, Baptist. Others, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor are Catholic. This really shouldn’t be an argument. (Full disclosure: I serve on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represents the Little Sisters and several Baptist ministries.)
After all, whatever our disagreements in America, most of us agree that the government shouldn’t force our fellow Americans to violate their deepest religious convictions for no reason at all. Now, we all agree there are sometimes going to be some hard calls—where the government has a very good reason to override religious conscience and where there’s no other real alternative. This is not one of those cases.
The government isn’t really arguing that it has no other choice. The government instead is arguing that the ministries misunderstand their own faith; that they can participate in its complicated contraceptive delivery scheme without disobeying God. Setting aside the un-American idea of government officials instructing citizens on what God wants, this argument is insane. Is the government really more Catholic than nuns? Is the government more Baptist than the churches and theologians telling them we can’t in good conscience follow their so-called accommodation?
I believe that every person will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and give an account for their life, including how we spent our resources. You don’t have to agree with me on that, or on abortion or on anything else. I don’t even agree with the Little Sisters on their views on the morality of contraception. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that the ministries themselves sincerely believe what the government demands of them is wrong. The government’s theology lesson to these ministries is an expensive one—threatening massive fines every year. The Little Sisters alone face a staggering $70 million penalty just to continue serving elderly poor people as they have for 175 years.