Baptists almost ‘dance for joy’ over religious freedom ruling
THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, deciding that the companies do not have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.
The 5-4 decision sets an important precedent for “closely held” companies (those owned by individuals or families) that object to what has become known as the abortion-contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
In the opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that under the standard set by Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, “the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.”
Southern Baptist leaders responded quickly to the ruling. “It is an absolute victory for the proponents of religious liberty,” said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page. “I am thankful that both common sense and conscience have seen a victory in a day where such victories are rare.”
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the ruling an “exhilarating victory for religious freedom.” During the SBC Annual Meeting in Baltimore earlier this month, Moore presented an award to the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby.
“As a Baptist, I am encouraged that our ancestors’ struggle for the First Amendment has been vindicated,” Moore said after the Court’s decision.
“This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets with joy.”
Court also rules on abortion clinic buffer zones
The Supreme Court struck down a 2007 Massachusetts law restricting pro-life advocates from congregating within 35-foot zones around abortion center entrances and driveways, Tom Strode of Baptist Press reports. Justices issued a 9-0 opinion on the matter, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the law “imposed serious burdens” on free speech.
Marriage in limbo in several Upper Midwest states
Indiana has joined a list of states in which the definition of marriage is pending an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling. After Judge Richard Young struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban June 25, a federal appeals court issued a stay two days later. Michigan and Wisconsin are in a similar situation, as seen in this map from USA Today (which doesn’t reflect the Indiana appeal). Same-sex marriage officially became legal in Illinois June 1, although some counties began issuing marriage licenses in the spring.
LifeWay survey: Domestic violence rarely preached about in church
Nearly three-fourths of Protestant pastors say domestic or sexual violence is a problem in their community, but 42% rarely or never preach on the topic. The survey, conducted by LifeWay Research and sponsored by Sojourners and IMA World Health, also found 74% of pastors know someone who has experienced domestic violence. Read more at LifeWayResearch.com.
Thief-turned-pastor shares testimony
George Aguilar, once an enemy of churches in Oklahoma, is now a pastor in his home country of El Salvador. After robbing from and vandalizing 11 churches in the Tulsa area, Aguilar came to Christ after one of the churches he stole from took him in. Read his story from The Baptist Messenger.