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Amid the flurry of essays on religious liberty occasioned by the Supreme Court’s hearing arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, these two sentences from Rick Warren’s otherwise excellent op-ed in the Washington Post stood out to me:

Hobby Lobby is not a secular, publicly traded company. Rather, it is the personal, purpose-driven mission of one of the most devout families I’ve ever met.

I appreciate that it is Hobby Lobby, not the entire business sector, that is before the high court this week. As a description of Hobby Lobby, these sentences are formally accurate. Still, they give aid and comfort to the myth of secular neutrality that is the deepest foundation of the assault on religious freedom. Specifically, they imply:

  1. Publicly traded companies are “secular.”
  2. Publicly traded companies are not “personal” to those who work in them.
  3. Publicly traded companies are not “purpose-driven.”
  4. Religious freedom rights are contingent on the level of personal devotion demonstrated by those claiming them.

In fact, all businesses without exception are moral, culture-making enterprises. Business is human action, and human action is always morally and culturally grounded—and formative.

The law should treat business as a moral activity. And so should churches! One of the long-term factors that has left our culture unable to understand the kind of claim being made by Hobby Lobby has been the failure of so many churches to teach that business is a vocation.

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