Hobby Lobby: the beliefs behind the battle

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Washington (CNN) – For the Greens, the Christian family behind the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, their battle with the Obama administration was never really about contraception. It was about abortion.

After all, the evangelical Greens don’t object to 16 of the 20 contraceptive measures mandated for employer coverage by the Affordable Care Act. That puts the family squarely in line with other evangelicals, who largely support the use of contraception among married heterosexual couples.

Like other evangelicals, however, the Greens believe that four forms of contraception mandated under the ACA — Plan B, Ella and two intrauterine devices — are in fact abortifacient.

That is, they cause abortions by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the womb. (The Obama administration and several major medical groups disagree.)

“We won’t pay for any abortive products,” Steve Green, Hobby Lobby’s president, told Religion News Service. “We believe life begins at conception.”

Evangelicals as a whole may be relative newcomers to that view, but since the 1980s it has become nearly gospel. (The Pew Research Center has a helpful guide to other religious groups’ stance.)

As Christianity Today editor Mark Galli has argued, evangelicals arrived at their current stand on life issues through a combination of factors, including biblical interpretation, moral accounting and political calculus. Others also add the influence of early architects of the religious right and the example of the Catholic Church, which has opposed abortion for centuries.

But given the important of scripture to evangelicals, it’s no surprise that groups like the National Association of Evangelicals cite the Bible in the second sentence of their policy stance on abortion:

And because the Bible reveals God’s calling and care of persons before they are born, the preborn share in this dignity (Psalm 139:13).

You’ll see that verse, Psalm 139:13, cited quite a bit when it comes to evangelicals and abortion. In it, the psalmist says to God, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

(You’ll also see that verse cited by many Mennonites, so it makes sense that a Mennonite business, Conestoga Wood Specialties, joined a companion challenge to Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court.)

If God knew you in the womb, the thinking goes, then you must’ve been at some stage of personhood, and that provides biblical justification for the idea that life begins at conception, according to evangelicals and other Christians.

In addition to Psalm 139, you’ll also hear evangelicals and Mennonites cite several other Bible passages that they believe affirm the sanctity of human life.

Genesis 1, for example, says that mankind is made in God’s image; the Ten Commandments make murder a crime against God; and Job, the old Testament sufferer, frets about what would happen if he mistreats his servants because:

Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

Again, you see the divine and womb interacting, which is why evangelicals like the Greens so strongly oppose contraception that prevents embryo implantation in the womb.

Still, those verses may not be on the Greens’ minds after Monday’s decision. Instead, Steve Green has said, they’ll be thinking about Daniel 3:16:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”