Does our Constitution guarantee the freedom of religion, or does it merely allow a more limited freedom to worship? The difference is profound. Worship is an event. Religion is a way of life.
Specifically, does the First Amendment guarantee believers of all faiths the freedom to practice their ethics, educate their children and operate family businesses based on their religious beliefs, moral convictions and freedom of conscience? Do Americans have the freedom to place our beliefs and ethics at the center of our business practices — or must we ignore them when we form a company?
These questions will be brought before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The outcome of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby will affect every American because any religion allowed to be practiced only inside a house of worship, and not in the day-to-day business of life, is a worthless faith.
Since I wrote “The Purpose Driven Life” 12 years ago, I have received more than 500,000 letters and e-mails from people trying to live in ways they believe honor God. For millions of Americans, faith is something you live by. It colors every decision and action, both at home and at work. It is personal, but it is not private.
David and Barbara Green are one example of a purpose-driven family leading a purpose-driven business. From the time the Greens started Hobby Lobby in their garage, building picture frames with their sons, they committed themselves and their company to one simple purpose: “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating our company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.”
Hobby Lobby has grown into a multibillion-dollar business with more than 550 stores and nearly 16,000 full-time employees. David Green has written, “We had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God’s Word.”
The Greens live their religious values and ethics in every aspect of their business: by providing salaries and benefits far above average industry levels and by their commitment to helping employees maintain a healthy work-life balance, which includes closing on Sundays so workers have more time with their families.
Every year, Hobby Lobby gives a portion of its profits to charities, educational institutions, community ministries and churches around the world. My own congregation was a surprise beneficiary of the Greens’ generosity a few years ago, and that is how I first met this amazing family.
There is massive evidence that everything Hobby Lobby does is predicated on the Greens’ deep belief that they must honor God and obey his commands in their business. Every Christmas and Easter, Hobby Lobby takes out full-page ads to share the Greens’ faith in the communities where they have stores. 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.
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