“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
So said Founding Father Thomas Paine, in 1776, in referring to British efforts to repress freedom in America.
This memorable phrase stirred hearts toward action and aroused a groundswell of public support for the revolution that soon followed. Why is this phrase relevant to Bible-believing Christian business owners and CEOs today? Like the freedom-loving Christians who were so instrumental in establishing “one nation under God,” it’s now our time to stand up and protect what our Lord died to give us, the freedom to live and lead for His honor and glory.
What’s the big deal, you ask? Like the frog in the proverbial boiling pot, most of us live day-to-day under the assumption that in spite of constant chatter and debate swirling around us, our constitutional freedoms, including religious liberty, are safe enough. “Anyway”, most would say, “it’s better to live in America than anywhere else.” Many Christian business owners mistakenly view the painful, prolonged rollout of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) as a cost issue to be worried about later, once the employer mandate delays finally end. After all, we’re all in the same competitive boat, so why worry or get involved?
As Christians we’re called not to be anxious but, instead, “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” to present our requests to God. With this in mind, now is the time for Christian business leaders to rise up in prayer and fasting to seek divine intervention in the “affairs of men.” With the upcoming March 25, 2014 U.S. Supreme Court hearing of the cases involving Christian business owners Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties – seeking relief from Obamacare’s HHS mandates – much more is at stake than initially meets the eye, for Christians, the American economy, and our very way of life.
[Note: The C12 Group’s amicus brief on behalf of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties (and Christian servant leaders everywhere) is available for viewing at http://c12group.com/c12-amicus-brief-supporting-hobby-lobby-and-conestoga-wood-specialities/]
The C12 Group is privileged to coming alongside thousands of Christian business owners across America to help them ‘Build GREAT Businesses for a GREATER Purpose’. During the past 22 years, we’ve served more than 4000 Christian-led companies of all kinds, typically with sales of $1 million to $1 billion and workforces ranging from 10 to thousands. In the process, we’ve come to deeply understand their issues, hopes, challenges, needs, and concerns. Although some have been publicly-traded companies, 90+% are privately-held, family-controlled businesses, mirroring the overall American business landscape. Over the past six months, we’ve hosted a national Christian CEOs conference with nearly 500 attendees and have surveyed our 1300+ members on issues relevant to their lives and businesses. As a group, they desire to be solid stewards and ambassadors for Christ and to lead excellent businesses that actively bless their many stakeholders. This includes fairly compensating their employees, who often are among the most loyal, committed, and well-treated workers in their markets. For example, in contrast to 2012 U.S. HHS Department data showing that just 50% of U.S. private sector employees receive employer-provided health benefits, nearly 90% of C12 members provide such benefits.
Unfortunately, rarely has an issue caused as much confusion and concern as Obamacare’s redefining what constitutes legally available health insurance. Cost is one issue, but far more vivid for Bible-believing Christian CEOs is concern about offering plans that violate their firmly held convictions. In fact, two-thirds of C12 members object to offering HHS-mandated, zero-copay features such as abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, secular family planning, and contraception. They view insurance that promotes such practices to be clearly at odds with their personal faith and company core values. They realize that there’s nothing stopping federal regulators from mandating further objectionable features, such as euthanasia, in the future.
The Justice Department’s stance in the upcoming Supreme Court cases is essentially that companies are just nameless, faceless, impersonal, profit-seeking entities that don’t inherently enjoy the right to ‘free exercise’ of religion under our Constitution. This defies more than two centuries of U.S. jurisprudence, our Founders’ intent in forming this constitutional republic, and the business realities that we’ll discuss in a few moments. The practical impact of this distorted view, if upheld by the Court, is state-enforced secularism in the marketplace. This will force an untenable level of ‘dualism’ on Christian leaders whose sincere Biblical views require that they live one integrated life under the Lordship of Christ. Until now, such faithful expression of one’s firmly-held beliefs hasn’t only been possible in business, but heralded and admired by other nations as a foundational strength underpinning America’s historic economic exceptionalism. Christian CEOs must abide by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (i.e., non-discriminatory hiring, compensation, and promotion based on race, sex, religion, or national origin), but are essentially free to cast a God-honoring vision for doing business and ministering to others along the way as they serve their others in the marketplace.
Many Christian CEOs view government’s healthcare goals as reminiscent of what regulators and judges have done to public education by removing all aspects of Biblical truth and faith expression to create a highly secularized environment that forces Christian families into an unnatural, dualistic existence. For many Bible-believing Christian families, the alternative is often a costly private education even while they’re required to pay taxes to support the very public schools they find objectionable. This situation effectively places an extra, punitive tax on Bible-believing Christians who feel they must make such decisions as a matter of personal conscience. These same dynamics will now unfold in the area of healthcare, unless something changes!
It was precisely such government incursion on the ability to live-out one’s faith that prompted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA). This nearly unanimously-passed federal legislation requires strict scrutiny to be used when determining whether the ‘Free Exercise Clause‘ of the First Amendment – guaranteeing religious freedom – is being violated. The Act states that the “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”[ Shockingly, today’s federal administration views Obamacare’s HHS mandates as an urgent matter of “compelling government interest” exempt from RFRA since this is “the least restrictive way possible”to accomplish their ends.
Time for Some Truth
For all of the media reporting about Obamacare and its implications, none adequately describe reality from the perspective of Bible-believing Christian CEOs. Statistically, there are an estimated 150,000 U.S. companies (with at least 10 employees and $1 million in revenue) being led by CEOs possessing a Biblical worldview and born-again Christian faith. This is represents a 10% slice of such American firms. In contrast to the view being espoused by the Administration, these are not nameless, faceless, impersonal, legal entities. They’re nearly always family-controlled businesses that serve as an integral expression of their owners’ life purpose and sincere religious beliefs.
Family-controlled businesses are the backbone of the American economy, representing 80% of all companies, more than half of our GDP, and 60% of the workforce. Many of the largest American companies are family-controlled, including an estimated 30% of the Fortune 500. For these employers, it’s not simply about money, any more than the typical employee desires a job simply to receive a paycheck. Research reveals that 75% of employees work primarily for reasons other than maximizing income. This is perhaps even more true of Biblical Christian CEOs, many of whom embrace ‘servant leadership’ as the highest expression of their craft!
Federal spokesmen have essentially said, “We’ve given them four years to prepare for this change; if they object, why don’t they simply pursue another profession or choose alternative ways to provide employee benefits?” This ignores economic reality and marginalizes the views of this vital slice of America’s economic leadership in a way that’s foolhardy, unconstitutional, and clearly unjust. Even while Obamacare’s employer mandate timetable drifts, the individual mandate is already in place. It serves to essentially redefine what passes as ‘legally-available’ insurance, whether procured through public exchanges or offered by self-insurance plans. All insurance plans are required to offer the objectionable HHS-mandated elements.
Let’s look a little closer at the real cost to the firms with 50+ “full-time equivalents” being led by servant leaders who find health insurance under Obamacare a ‘non-starter’. Hobby Lobby’s CEO, David Green, has said he won’t, as a matter of religious conscience, offer such insurance. Therefore Hobby Lobby will eventually incur an annual $3000 per employee penalty. In most markets, including discount retail, modest margins won’t allow companies to survive, let alone compete effectively under such cost penalties. Therefore, Obamacare becomes yet another way that the federal government picks ‘winners and losers’ in an effort to redefine America.
To see this issue through the eyes of a typical small company, let’s take a hypothetical 150-employee, family-controlled business with $40 million in annual revenue and a 9% pretax margin, that refuses to offer such insurance. The $3000 annual penalty per employee (even after the 30-employee ‘exclusion’) means that this company incurs an annual penalty of $360,000. This cuts their pretax profits by 10% due to what is essentially a punitive tax on their faith and business, thereby unfavorably changing the competitive equilibrium in their industry to benefit firms led by those willing to embrace federally-mandated healthcare benefits.
Why this is Bad for America
CEOs operating as Biblical servant leaders see their work as an integral expression of their God-given life and calling. They seek to grow healthy businesses and serve others with excellence as an act of obedience to honor Christ (e.g., 1Cor 10:31, Col 3:23-24, Eph 2:10, Mt 5:16). Many Christian business owners, therefore, apply Biblical principles in crafting the vision, purpose and core values of the company. This humble, but firm, others-oriented approach has repeatedly proven to produce superior results. Corroborating contemporary research includes:
§ Long-term C12 members sharply outperform their peers in all economic climates. In good times, they grew their revenue and profit at nearly 4X the average annual rate versus a comparison group of mid-sized American leadership companies during the decade from 1995-2006. More recently, during the weak 2008-2013 economy, 79% of C12 members ‘outperformed’ their market peers while just 1% ‘underperformed’ their competitors.
§ The best-selling business book of the past generation, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, studied thousands of public companies over nearly four decades ton find that the common thread among the 11 ‘great’ breakout companies was a long-term, humble but firm, values first, ‘servant leader’ CEO.
§ Barna Group’s 2011 national survey of U.S. adults showed that consumers were 10X more likely to be drawn to a sincere ‘Christian brand’ supplier than to be repulsed (even in the northeast and northwest)!
§ Baylor University’s 2013 study of U.S. adults reported relatively more entrepreneurial commitment, resilient stewardship, and selflessness among devoted Christians.
§ The NY Times reported that during the five years ending September 30, 2013, the Eventide Gilead Fund(invested solely in ‘Biblically-Responsible’ companies) was the top-performing mutual fund among those with >$50 mil in assets, returning 21.3% annually vs. the S&P 500’s 7.6%.
Clearly, God’s ways work! Firms led by Christian servant leaders have always been disproportionately large contributors to the health and resilience of the American economy!
Call to Action
So, where does this leave us? If this federal administration gets its way, servant leader-led businesses and nonprofits could be fined out of existence and/or further burdened by objectionable regulation in the future. Over the past two years, retailers, manufacturers, schools, contractors, publishers, service companies, and ministries have all been forced to incur expense and distraction to fight the federal government, just to protect their deeply-held moral beliefs. Since Obamacare’s passage, more than 300 plaintiffs have filed 100 lawsuits against the threat to religious freedom represented by the HHS mandates. So far, among 45 nonprofits filing suit, 19 have won injunctions. Out of 46 businesses bringing suit – including national retailer Hobby Lobby and kitchen cabinetmaker Conestoga Wood Specialties – 33 have been granted temporary relief from HHS mandates. In spite of these promising results in federal circuit and appellate courts, Obamacare proceeds unabated, as we await the Supreme Court to rule.
As Founding Father and second President, John Adams, so aptly said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Third President and author of our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, “The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm.” These obvious truths must not be lost in our day. Our very liberty to honor and serve our God through the marketplace as servant leaders called to ‘build great businesses for a greater purpose’ is currently being threatened by a government that was originally conceived to protect these very rights.
With the free exercise of firmly-held religious convictions very much under attack, this is a time for prayer and fasting by people of faith across America. Please join us in storming the gates of Heaven on behalf of the thousands of American companies and millions of American citizens – today and in future generations – whose very livelihood and eternal well-being is at stake!
About The C12 Group
The C12 Group is America’s leading roundtable for Christian CEOs and Owners building great businesses for a greater purpose. C12 Members gather monthly for a unique, proven peer forum to engage in worthwhile continual learning, brainstorming, intentional accountability, and to share proven best practices, combined with eternal perspective. Members also receive monthly counsel through one-on-one sessions, an annual business review, and an online library of high-impact leadership tools. Founded in 1992 by Buck Jacobs, dedicated Christian author and CEO, C12’s mission is to change the world by bringing forth the Kingdom of God in the marketplace through the companies and lives of those He calls to run businesses for Him.
Christian CEOs & Owners Building GREAT Businesses for a GREATER Purpose ©2014, The C12 Group, all rights reserved.