A Tale of Two American Businesses
America was a different country in the 1800s.
It was a country in which Joseph, Samuel, and William Bancroft of Wilmington, Delaware, were free to put their Quaker faith into practice; not just by worshipping in their churches, but by shaping their businesses and their philanthropies according to the principles of their faith. They were devout Christian men who did good things. Their faith was intertwined inextricably with every aspect of their lives.
The Bancrofts’ faith became a legacy.
Today, joggers and dog walkers at Wilmington’s Rockford Park, with its ancient oak trees and winding roads, go by the plaque commemorating the Bancroft who gave his farm to the city for public use. William Bancroft called on William Law Olmstead, who planned New York City’s Central Park, to design picturesque parks. Guided by the principle of the brotherhood of mankind, Bancroft provided city dwellers from all stations of life scenic open spaces to enjoy.
The now abandoned Bancroft Mills was by 1930 one of the biggest cotton finishing mills in the world and a model of good employer/employee relations. Manager Samuel Bancroft regarded employees as extended family and treated them accordingly.
As time goes by, most legacies prove written in water.
So it is with the Bancroft legacy, which has quietly faded into the background of Delaware’s history. But the Bancroft family would have wanted it that way, as modesty was a virtue prized by their Quaker faith, as were Christian family and civic virtues.
One of the Quakers’ staunchest beliefs was that the authority of the state never took precedence over the authority of the individual conscience before God. The Quaker belief in the inner guiding light of Christ was so strong that they would not take any oath of allegiance to the state, nor would they bow to any demand of the state that interfered with their religious practices.
At the time, the U.S. government generally respected Quakers and others’ religious convictions, leaving believers of all faiths the freedom to follow their God and their consciences. There was a strong belief in freedom of religion as a right transcending the dictates of the state.
We live in a different America today.
We now live in a country in which the Bancroft family would be excoriated for their faith and viewed suspiciously for their Christian principles and virtues. Seldom in the history of the United States have Christians and others of faith been under more pressure to bend to the power of the almighty state, not just in business practices, but in their personal walk with God.
One need only think of the confusion and dismay Samuel Bancroft would feel were he Hobby Lobby’s CEO David Green, whose objections of conscience to the Affordable Care Act caused a legal firestorm that eventually landed in the Supreme Court.
Over decades of hard work, Green achieved the American Dream, seeing his company grow from an enterprise begun in his living room in 1972 to a nationwide chain of some 575 stores today. All the while, Green has remained true to the dictates of his conscience -- much like the Bancroft family before him.
A devout Pentecostal, Green attributes the growth of his company to the fact he based Hobby Lobby’s operations on biblical principles. Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sundays in order families have time to rest and worship. Green has stated, “We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles.”
Those principles include paying the business’s 22,000 workers fairly -- twice the minimum wage for full time workers. "As a family-owned business, we want our employees to feel like they are part of a family," said Green, echoing the sentiments of Samuel Bancroft.
According to an interview with Forbes magazine author Brian Solomon, Green also believes that faith is not really faith unless it’s put into practice in his business and in everyday life. "I don’t care if you’re in business or out of business, God owns it. How do I separate it? Well, it's God's in church and it's mine here? I have purpose in church, but I don't have purpose over here? You can't have a belief system on Sunday and not live it the other six days."
In the above statement lies the reason Green filed suit against an overweening federal government which told him, his inner light of Christian conscience or no, that Hobby Lobby had to provide its employees with insurance that included the abortifacient, “the morning after pill.”
Green balked, taking a public stance against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and filing a lawsuit against the United States that stated, "The Green family's religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices."
Hobby Lobby argued that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act were safeguards allowing the protection of their religious beliefs.
The fierce controversy that rose because of Green’s refusal to capitulate to the demands of the Left saw Green and Hobby Lobby vilified and castigated in ways the humble Bancrofts never could have imagined.
Even the decision of SCOTUS concerning the ACA’s insurance mandate has not stopped the Left from targeting Hobby Lobby.
The latest suit against the company concerns the “rights” of a biological male transgender going by the name of Meggan Sommerville. Sommerville wants to use the women's restroom at work. Hobby Lobby requires that he/she use the men's restroom until completing sex reassignment surgery. Sommerville has sued, citing discrimination, as his/her inner light has determined he/she is female.
As the new case reveals, the Quaker concept of the inner light has for radical liberals come to mean that only those on the extreme Left have an inner light that is infallible. It follows the State is to be the enforcer of that infallible knowledge of the rightness of the latest tenets of the liberal agenda, Christian or other consciences be damned.
For the Left, if Hobby Lobby or any other business run according to religious principles -- Chick Fil-A comes to mind -- opposes liberal dictates, it does not deserve the right to exist. It has no right to practice a faith diametrically opposed to current Leftist doctrines. Therefore, it should be trampled into the dust.
One cannot help but suspect the reason the Left continues to attempt Green’s and Hobby Lobby’s destruction is because of Green’s financial support of evangelical Christian institutions. Take down Green, and the entire evangelical community would feel the repercussions.
The vast majority of Christians, along with believers in other faiths, believe the state must accede to a transcendent moral order that overarches and informs the state -- not vice versa. The U.S Constitution acknowledges and reinforces the divinely given right to live out life in every sphere as one’s faith dictates.
Christians and others must demand their civic rights to run their businesses, train and educate their children, and to live out and practice their faith in the home, church and society at large without interference by what is an increasingly persecutory state.
Otherwise, they and others of differing faith traditions will find themselves having the “freedom” to practice their faith within church walls only -- not within society at large. Liberals increasingly insist that once people of faith are outside sanctuary walls or the privacy of their homes, liberals should dictate how their lives are to be lived.
Such religious “freedom” is readily available even in authoritarian countries such as Saudi Arabia.
It certainly is not the freedom liberty loving Americans would want or choose.
Kevin Wade is Delaware’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He is running against Senator Chris Coons. Mr. Wade can be reached at email@example.com
Fay Voshell is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and many other online publications. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.