Leaders with a Christian denomination pledged their support for Hobby Lobby on Monday, in the aftermath of a local preacher's presentation of a petition against litigation filed by the Oklahoma City-based retailer.
Last week, the Rev. Lance Schmitz, an Oklahoma City Church of the Nazarene preacher, gave a petition to an employee at a local Hobby Lobby store. Schmitz said he was acting on his personal beliefs and not the Church of the Nazarene as he presented the petition he said was signed by 80,000 people concerned about the arts and crafts retailer's lawsuit challenging a federal Health and Human Services mandate.
Response to petition
Schmitz presented the petition on behalf of two national organizations Faithful America and UltraViolet, who said the petitioners were asking Hobby Lobby's leaders not to place women's health care at risk with the retailer's Sept. 12 lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' mandate requiring employers to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs as part of their company's health care plan.
Hobby Lobby sued, claiming that the mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act adopted in 2010, violates business owners' freedoms of religion and speech. Schmitz said Sept. 27, he agreed to deliver the petition to Hobby Lobby because he thinks limiting access to contraception will result in an increase in abortions.
Monday, Jim G. Cooper, district superintendent of the Southwest Oklahoma District of the Church of the Nazarene, released a prepared statement emphasizing that Schmitz's actions were not affiliated with the denomination.
“The petition advanced by Reverend Schmitz regarding the action of Hobby Lobby against the Federal Government are his own views and are not the official position of the Church of the Nazarene, International nor of the Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene. Nor is the Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene associated with Faithful America or UltraViolet organizations in this regard,” Cooper said in the statement.
“The Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene and the Church of the Nazarene, International affirms our partnership with Hobby Lobby for the good of our communities and all humanity. The generous and compassionate works of Hobby Lobby to alleviate poverty, injustice and suffering are well-known to the Southwest Oklahoma District Church of the Nazarene and we do not support any form of boycott or petition advocating such. Our relationship with Hobby Lobby in regard to Biblical Christian values is a positive and mutual one.”
Cooper ended his statement by stating the Church of the Nazarene's stance in favor of the sanctity of human life.
“As to the views and beliefs regarding the sanctity of human life, the Church of the Nazarene has made it clear in the Manual (the guiding beliefs and polity of the Church) that ‘The Church of the Nazarene believes in the sanctity of human life and strives to protect against abortion ... All human life, including life developing in the womb, is created by God ... and therefore, to be nurtured, supported, and protected. We oppose induced abortion by any means, when used for either personal convenience or population control. We oppose laws that allow abortion.'”
Schmitz could not be reached for comment Monday. A spokesman for Hobby Lobby said the retailer did not have a statement on Monday.
Last week, Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said Hobby Lobby has no concerns about contraception but the business' owners feel that paying for drugs that induce abortion would violate their Christian beliefs.