William Tyndale and the Obama Conscience Mandate
By Robert Schwarzwalder
Robert Schwarzwalder is senior vice president of the Family Research Council. This article appeared on Religion Today, October 11, 2012.
William Tyndale was the first Englishman to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek to English. For this, he was "tied to the stake, strangled and burned. His last words reportedly were: 'Oh Lord, open the King of England's eyes.'"
A Christian publishing firm named in the martyr's honor, Tyndale House, has now been told by the Obama administration that it must provide abortion and contraceptive coverage under the president's health care regime since "Obama administration rules say for-profit corporations are categorically non-religious."
To be sure this is clear: A Bible publishing company, named for a Christian martyr and which was founded by a Bible translator (the late Dr. Kenneth Taylor), is not "religious" enough to be exempt from a government mandate that insists the firm violate its faith-based beliefs?
Here's information from Tyndale's website about its mission and purpose:
Tyndale House Publishers is substantially owned by Tyndale House Foundation. As a result, the company's profits help underwrite the foundation's mission, which is to spread the Good News of Christ around the world ... (the corporate purpose of Tyndale House is to) "Minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through literature consistent with biblical principles."
FRC's friends in the Alliance Defending Freedom are not letting the Obama administration get away with this almost hilarious re-definition of what it means to be a religious employer. In its suit defending Tyndale against the administration's efforts, ADF writes:
This action arises because the federal government has deemed devout publishers of the Bible to be insufficiently "religious" to enjoy religious freedom in America. The federal government is mandating that Tyndale House Publishers violate its and its owners' beliefs by covering morally objectionable items in their health plan pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The government has defined "religious employer" to exclude these Bible publishers from exemptions that the government otherwise provides.
In May, President Obama affirmed that he wants to redefine marriage. Now, apparently, he wants to redefine religion, too.
The Tyndale litigation is only one of the latest in a long line of suits filed by faith-based colleges, universities, hospitals and religiously-affiliated organizations to protect them from violating their consciences - and what they believe to be the Word of God - by providing health care plans that offer abortion, chemical contraception and sterilization.
Just this week, two more Christian colleges (Houston Baptist University and East Texas Baptist University) have challenged the contraceptive mandate in court, via the Becket Fund, a religious liberty law firm. For non-compliance with the mandate, they "face annual fines of more than $10 million each."
Houston Baptist University president Dr. Robert Sloan has explained eloquently the moral case against the contraceptive mandate:
While we are always reluctant to enter into lawsuits, the government has given us no choice. Either we violate our conscience or give in to the administration's heavy-handed attack upon our religious freedom. We will not comply with this unconstitutional mandate, and we plead with our government to respect the liberties given by God and enunciated in the Bill of Rights.
In 1791, the preacher and abolitionist John Leland articulated the Founders' belief that religious liberty must never be subject to government sanction. He argued that "the rights of conscience are inalienable." This premise is the very foundation of America's existence: Our duty to God precedes and informs our duty to the state, not the other way around.
With characteristic elegance, Alexander Hamilton made the same point: "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."
Does the Obama administration understand this or, more importantly, believe it? If the president wants to fulfill his pledge to "transform" America, there can be no more effective way than diminishing the religious liberty that sustains all of our rights and freedoms. Only that transformation would come through the undermining of the very foundation of the republic, something the American people should never countenance.
In The Obedience of the Christian Man, William Tyndale wrote: "Christ is with us until the world's end. Let his little flock be bold therefore." Amen. Are we ready for such boldness? Am I? Are you?