From the Charleston Mercury, August 2014
Margaret Sanger, Courtesy of the Library of Congress
By Charles A. Collins, Jr.
Shortly after moving to Texas in early 2001, I needed a couple of diplomas and my diaconal ordination certificate framed. After consulting with some friends in the area, they were nearly unanimous in their recommendation of where I should get the work done — a place that I’d not heard of in South Carolina, but about which people were effusive in praise. I’m speaking, of course, of Hobby Lobby, a store that has followed me as I returned to S.C. — and has been much in the news of late.
In 1970, David Green, an Assemblies of God minister’s son from Oklahoma, took out a $600 loan and began assembling and selling miniature picture frames out of his garage. The family business grew quickly: within a couple of years he was shopping for retail space and soon after upgraded to a larger shop, by then using the name Hobby Lobby. More stores followed as the company expanded: it currently has some 575 stores nationwide (including one in Mount Pleasant). This has made Green a billionaire, but despite the growth the company hasn’t gone public — it’s privately held with the Green family owning a controlling share. In addition, the son of a preacher man has sought to remain true to his faith, not opening Hobby Lobby on Sundays and living out his beliefs in other ways: “We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles,” Green explains.
Because of their Christian principles, the Greens were compelled to oppose the Affordable Care Act because of its requirement that the company provide coverage for forms of birth control that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. (The company had no opposition to funding the most commonly used forms of birth control such as most birth control pills, prophylactics, sponges and sterilization.) Hobby Lobby filed suit, and in the June 30 ruling of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 ruling that closely held corporations such as Hobby Lobby couldn’t be compelled to fund procedures that conflict with the religious convictions of their owners. Conservatives were, generally speaking, pleased; those on the left, less so.
Amid the hue and cry, this observer noticed two telling ads opposed to Hobby Lobby and the decision. The first, from the American Humanist Association, encouraged people to boycott businesses that unfairly impose their religion — Hobby Lobby is listed under the “crafts” category and Fox News is listed under the “news” category and Chick-Fil-A for “chicken.” The listing for “clothing,” however, was the Salvation Army. Perhaps, the American Humanists missed it, but, despite the fact that many think of the Salvation Army as a social service agency that has thrift stores, it is first, foremost, and always a church, with local congregations and clergy — and it should come as no surprise that a church would seek to influence others for their religion.
That listing betrays a larger agenda, namely the removal of faith from public discourse. In our culture today, it is perfectly fine to hold religious convictions provided they don't actually influence the way one lives. Such a privatized, marginalized faith is unlikely to bear much fruit.
The other ad was from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and prominently featured Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger noting with approbation her motto, “No gods — no masters.” This highlight of Mrs. Sanger reveals more that the FFRF might have wished. Mrs. Sanger was a staunch advocate of eugenics, a social philosophy aimed at improving the genetic quality of human beings, boldly proclaiming the goal of “more children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the goal of birth control,” and referring to blacks, immigrants, and indigents as “human weeds, reckless breeders, spawning human beings ... who should never have been born.” It is both telling and troubling that the Freedom From Religion Foundation seeks to make Sanger an exemplar.
I’m certainly not trying to demonize all who disagree with the ruling inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby. I have friends who take issue with it. I am encouraging readers to look at the world and life view undergirding some opposition to the ruling, and the demand for compliance with government programs and progressive social causes, that seeks to remove the voices of people of faith from public discourse.
The Rev'd Charles A. Collins, Jr., is vicar of the Church of the Atonement, a Reformed Episcopal parish in the Anglican Church of North America in Mount Pleasant.