The H.H.S. Mandate will Strangle the Church

As a church historian, I feel compelled to remind my fellow Christians in America of a dire threat to their religious freedom, which freedom is supposed to be guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That threat is the Health and Human Services Mandate (hereafter H.H.S. Mandate) within the “Affordable Care Act.” This Mandate requires charitable and educational church agencies to offer abortion-causing drugs to their employees or face stiff financial penalties.

I cannot judge how or why this Mandate was developed. I am a church historian, not a political insider in Washington. What I know as a church historian is that the most effective strategy used by the enemies of the Christian church has been that of “strangulation” through stiff financial penalties and the suppression of its charitable and educational agencies. The H.H.S Mandate imposes stiff financial penalties on the Christian church’s charitable and educational agencies, if they refuse to accept its abortion policies. This is a policy of “strangulation,” whether or not it was intended as such, and it needs to be resisted by all Christian churches in America.

The policy of “strangulation” was first developed by the Islamic religion in its conquests in the Middle East and the Mediterranean world. “People of the Book” (Arabic: “Ahl al-Kitab”), i.e., Jews and Christians, who have lived in Moslem countries have always had the status of second-class citizens (Arabic: “dhimmi”). Dhimmis are allowed to retain their religion, but are subject to certain legal restrictions mostly in social and economic life. These restrictions and penalties have varied in harshness and the extent to which they are applied. The official levy of dhimmis is the poll “tax” (Arabic: “jizya”), which was often heavy (see Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church [London: Penguin Books, 1964], 97-98). The intent of dhimmi status was to induce Christians and Jews to convert to the Islamic faith, or to leave the country, which policy has proved to be quite effective through the centuries.

The policy of “strangulation” was developed in a different way by the communists in the Soviet Union. Starting in 1917, the communists in Russia executed over 12,000 priests, as well as uncounted numbers of laypeople for their steadfast Christian witness (see Ware, 156-157). What is generally not known about the communist policy is that many church buildings were allowed to remain open for worship services. The Church could worship in the Soviet Union, but it could not maintain charitable or social work. It could train a certain number of candidates for the priesthood, but it was otherwise forbidden to engage in educational activities (see Ware, 152-154, 166-169, 170). In other countries that were under communist control after World War II, the same policy of prohibiting the church’s educational and charitable work was followed, with the hope that this would “strangle” the church in a generation or two (see Ware, 174).

The H.H.S Mandate makes it a crime, punishable by law and heavy “tax” penalties, for a church agency to refuse to comply with the Mandate’s abortion policies. Christian churches that are worthy of the name “Christian” cannot, in good conscience, concur with abortion-on-demand. Until the 20th century, the Christian churches have always opposed abortion-on-demand and have done so on biblical bases. Even the traditional physician’s Oath of Hippocrates (460-357 B.C.) included a promise not to perform an abortion; although abortion was common among pagans by the first century A.D. (see Michael J. Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church [Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1982). Now in 2012, Christian church agencies in the United States will be heavily fined with “tax” penalties, if they do not offer abortion-causing-drugs to their employees.

What can you do? Representatives of the majority of American Christian churches, and their agencies, have signed a fine letter in opposition to the H.H.S. Mandate titled “Free Exercise of Religion” (see this document). All of the American Catholic bishops have spoken against the Mandate and their official conference is taking many steps to oppose it (see this website). President Matthew Harrison has spoken against the Mandate and his office offers many resources for Lutherans concerned about it (see lcms.org/hhsmandate).

All this “official” church action won’t do a whole lot of good, if the people of the church and their friends don’t take this issue to their elected representatives through letters and through other legal and appropriate means. The Christian churches, and all those concerned about religious liberty, want all candidates for office in November to make clear their position on the H.H.S Mandate, because it will indicate whether they are in favor of “strangling” the Church or not.


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The H.H.S. Mandate will Strangle the Church — 55 Comments

  1. Does Scripture grant the idea of “progress” as history plays out? Is the American system an actual net improvement over the best prior system? — Rev. M. R. Noland

    I hope that the leaders of the Missouri Synod publicly note and applaud this decision, especially since it is not just church organizations that have been affect by the treacherous HHS edict and the hellspawn who support it. — Mr. Vehse

    In light of the fact that the President of the United States supports the HHS edict … a very calamitous and onerous edict with dire implications, to be sure … perhaps the Steadfast Brotherhood may wish to consider the following:

    Does sacred Scripture grant the idea of damning the Emperor, as history plays itself out? Is an American Lutheran characterization of those in authority, as “hellspawn,” in these latter days, an actual net improvement over the best prior advice of Ss. Paul and Peter?

    The Emperor of Rome, Herod, and the Sanhedrin attacked Christianity and sought the very lives of Paul, Peter and Stephen. The latter called the Jewish leaders a stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and always resisting the Holy Ghost; the betrayers and murderers of the Just One (Acts 7:5). Yet at his own murder, at their hands, Stephen called upon God “to not lay this sin against them” (Acts 7:60); he did this, with a loud voice. Did he call down fire from heaven, on that hellspawn individual holding the coats of the rock-throwers? The Word suggests otherwise. And it was, we might all agree, a good thing.

    Fr. Dr. Luther was an excitable man at times; as excitable, perhaps, as any Saxon who has lost his precious earthly Mammon-savings to the excesses of an old bishop. But he was pressed by those unworthy to tie his cincture, if not tousle his tonsure. The imprecatory Psalms for me are best thought of, I think, as something aimed less at some American President or the 2012 electorate (however “traitorous,” or Raca-like, the Steadfast among us may think of it), but more appropriately at my Old Adam. He is a most devilish rascal at heart, truth be told; ever happy to plant a crown of thorns on the Son of God’s head, and to trample His teachings concerning the loving of one’s enemy. But certainly, too, with an outward appearance as brilliant as any white-scrubbed, sepulchral Pharisee identified by the Incarnate Word.

    Pax et gaudium,

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor

  2. Compared to Friday’s U.S. District for D.C. Court decision to grant a preliminary injunction to the for-profit Tyndale House Publishers (as discussed in Post #50), today another U.S. District Court judge has ruled the for-profit Hobby Lobby is not entitled to an injunction against the HHS mandate.

    According to an ABCNews report, “Judge: Hobby Lobby Must Offer Morning-After Pill“:

    In a 28-page ruling, U.S. District [Court for the Western District of Oklahoma] Judge Joe Heaton denied a request by Hobby Lobby [David Green, Founder and CEO] to prevent the government from enforcing portions of the health care law mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives the company’s Christian owners consider objectionable.

    In his ruling denying Hobby Lobby’s request for an injunction, Heaton said that while churches and other religious organizations have been granted constitutional protection from the birth-control provisions, “Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations.”

    Plaintiffs have not cited, and the court has not found, any case concluding that secular, for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby and Mardel have a constitutional right to the free exercise of religion,” the ruling said.

    Heaton wrote that “the court is not unsympathetic” to the problems cited by Hobby Lobby and their owners, the Green family. He said the health care law’s expansion of employer obligations “results in concerns and issues not previously confronted by companies or their owners.”

    “The question of whether the Greens can establish a free exercise constitutional violation by reason of restrictions or requirements imposed on general business corporations they own or control involves largely uncharted waters,” Heaton wrote.

    Hobby Lobby’s attorney said the companies’ owners will appeal. [Emphasis added]

    The judge’s opinion is not yet available on the internet, but a Becket Fund site has links to earlier legal documents submitted to the Western District of Oklahoma Court. Presumably the Tyndale decision will be featured in the appeal by Hobby Lobby.

  3. On June 27, 2013, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO, issued a decision that the owners of Hobby Lobby stores can proceed with their lawsuit seeking to overturn the birth-control coverage mandate on religious grounds. The judges unanimously sent the case back to a lower court in Oklahoma, which previously said Hobby Lobby must comply with the requirement or start paying millions of dollars in fines next week.

    Here is the 165-page 10th U.S. Court of Appeals decision: HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC.; MARDEL, INC.; DAVID GREEN; BARBARA GREEN; MART GREEN; STEVE GREEN; DARSEE LETT, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. [the traitorously evil] KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES; HILDA SOLIS, Secretary of the United States Department of Labor; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR; TIMOTHY GEITHNER, Secretary of the United States Department of Treasury; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY.

    Following that title there is a lengthy list of Amici Curiae . Curiously missing among all of the names, include numerous religions organizations and associations, is The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

    Furthermore the very first sentence in the Court’s decision is:

    “This case requires us to determine whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause protect the plaintiffs—two companies and their owners who run their businesses to reflect their religious values.”

    One may recall that on February 3, 2012, LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison issued a statement that include the following:

    We are deeply distressed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recent decision to require nearly all private health plans, including those offered by religious employers, to cover contraceptives. This will include controversial birth-control products such as ‘Ella’ and the ‘morning after’ pill, even though the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that such drugs can cause the death of a baby developing in the womb. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) objects to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception, and we are opposed to the HHS’ decision mandating the coverage of such contraceptives….

    “Increasingly we are suffering overzealous government intrusions into what is the realm of traditional and biblical Christian conscience. We believe this is a violation of our First Amendment rights. We will stand, to the best of our ability, with all religious and other concerned citizens, against this erosion of our civil liberty. Come what may, we shall do everything we can, by God’s grace, to ‘obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29).” [Emphasis added]

    In September 2012, the LCMS launched an education and awareness campaign called “Religious Liberty: Free to Be Faithful” with the main goal of inspiring LCMS rostered members and laity to take informed action to protect the freedom of religion.

  4. On the case, Liberty University Inc et al v. Lew et al, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 10-2347., the 4th Circuit Court rejected Liberty University’s argument that the Obamacare law violated the constitution’s Commerce Clause by forcing large employers to provide health insurance to full-time workers and violated First Amendment religious protections by subsidizing abortions.

    According to a news report:

    Mathew Staver, the dean of Liberty’s law school, said in a phone interview that the university plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court this month.

    “It goes against the principle that the Supreme Court laid down that Congress cannot force individuals to buy an unwanted product,” he said. “We believe the same principle applies to employers. If we win on the employer mandate, then the mandate would be gone for religious and non-religious employers.”

    Again, despite its own website opposing the HHS mandate for abortifacients, the LCMS was not among a large number of amici supporters included in the Court document. Perhaps the LCMS will include an amicus brief in the SCOTUS appeal.

  5. Obamaniacs take HHS edict to SCOTUS: Here’s the Petition for a Writ of Certiorari (Docket No. 13-354), Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, et al., Petitioners v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al..

    According to Lyle Denniston, another petition (Docket No. 13-356) has been submitted by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., based in East Earl, Pennsylvania, and operated by the Hahn family, members of the Mennonite Church. The company’s petition raises this single question: “Whether the religious owners of a family business, or their closely-held, for-profit corporation, have free exercise rights that are violated by the application of the contraceptive-coverage mandate of the ACA.”

    Whether the LCMS or the religious organizations who signed President Harrison’s June 21, 2012, Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans will file amicus curiae briefs remains to be seen.

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