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Bible publisher's victory is reason for thanks

Holy Bible

Religious believers have something special to be thankful for this week. Last Friday, the judicial branch put the brakes on an attack against the very religious freedom that was the reason for the first Thanksgiving.

That attack, sadly, originates from the White House. The good news is that the Obama administration has lost the first part of a case in which it was attempting to establish that the scope of religion in America is so miniscule that it does not apply to a devoutly religious Bible publishing company.

The usual suspect in this case is a mandate related to Obamacare. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an injunction against that mandate, which would have forced Tyndale House Publishers, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, to cover early abortion-inducing drugs in its health plan.

For 50 years, Tyndale House has been evangelizing through a vast array of Christian media products. Tyndale House's founder structured the company so that nearly all of its proceeds go to religious charity. So the Obamacare mandate in this case would have made Tyndale House violate the very Bible that it publishes.

But the Obama administration argued in court that Tyndale House is not even capable of exercising religion, much less able to win its case. Under this sweeping view, on Monday through Friday, when you enter your workplace or even your own business, you must check your religion at the door. But if a devoutly religious Bible publisher that gives its money to religious charity is not capable of exercising religion, then who else can? The government's position makes it open season on religious beliefs of someone who owns a business.

The administration's view, if upheld, would impose radical changes on American society. "Religious employers" would be limited to churches. Freedom of religion would mean little more than the freedom to worship on Sundays. Religious beliefs would be forced out of areas of life where people spend most of their time -- business, education, and health care -- and would instead be imprisoned in your mind and within your church's walls -- not by personal choice but by government coercion.

Of course the First Amendment and other religious freedom laws say nowhere that they don't apply to believers' economic activity. They protect free exercise of religion from the government, period. The government's duty is to safeguard life and freedom, not to crush it to promote the political agenda of those who profit from abortion and birth control.

Further, the administration's view is not really a legal but a theological one. The executive branch of the government wants courts to adopt the view that every area of human life is exclusively "secular" -- and therefore subject to state domination -- unless it falls into a tiny, shrinking box labeled "religion."

Most religions, especially Christianity, reject this view and believe that God is either the Lord of all areas of life, or else not Lord at all. The Obama administration will undoubtedly appeal last week's decision and again attempt to enthrone itself as lord over most of the waking hours of Americans -- even over Bible publishers.

But for now, one Bible publishing company and Bible readers everywhere have something to be extra thankful for this week. And they will continue to have something to be thankful for if those of us who care about religious freedom have anything to say about it.

Matt Bowman is senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and lead counsel representing Tyndale House Publishers in its lawsuit against the Obama administration.