“The decision to require Catholic hospitals to provide contraceptives and abortifacients they deem immoral in their insurance plans, demonstrates either President Obama’s personal antagonism to religious liberty — or the degree to which he is beholden to the secular left.
“Because it makes no political sense…
“Obama is too politically savvy to have been caught by surprise by the backlash over this decision, so I suppose we must assume this is his worldview: That government can and must use its coercive power to force everyone — regardless of their personal or religious beliefs — to do what they know is best. Period.”
“Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz pushed back against the church’s letter, saying the policy does not force anyone to buy our use contraception.
“‘This new law will save money for millions of Americans,’ Muñoz wrote Wednesday in a White House blog post. ‘But more importantly, it will ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy. The Obama Administration is committed to both respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services.'”
“The handling of the issue offers a hint of Obama’s approach to governing and campaigning in 2012: When confronted with a position close to his heart — and dear to the base — Obama is increasingly inclined to side with people who will vote for him even if it means enraging those who might, but probably won’t, vote for him.
“‘Who are we going to really lose over this? Ron Paul voters?’ asked a senior aide to a Senate Democrat, who thinks the administration should have handled the situation more quietly by punting a decision until after Election Day. ‘Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. … Catholics who don’t believe in condoms aren’t going to vote for Barack Obama anyway. Let’s get real.'”
“As a general matter, it made perfect sense to cover contraception. Many see doing so as protecting women’s rights, and expanded contraception coverage will likely reduce the number of abortions. While the Catholic Church formally opposes contraception, this teaching is widely ignored by the faithful. One does not see many Catholic families of six or 10 or twelve that were quite common in the 1950s. Contraception might have something to do with this.
“Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here…
“‘The tensions and the suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed,’ Obama said back in 2006. ‘And each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.’ I wish the president had tried harder to find such rules here.”
“[T]he issue of the government’s effort to curtail the freedom of religious institutions to conduct operations according to their moral principles seems to have galvanized a tenuous alliance between the Catholic left and the Catholic right. Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the ultra-progressive newspaper the National Catholic Reporter, declared that Obama had “lost my vote” after the rule was issued. He wrote: ‘[T]he president’s decision … essentially told us, as Catholics, that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our church has built over the years.’
“Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former archbishop of Los Angeles, used to be derided by Catholic conservatives for his hobnobbing with pro-abortion-rights Democratic politicians and for his expensive and avant-garde Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Yet Mahony has turned out to be one of the most vehement opponents of the new rule. ‘I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today,’ he wrote on his blog…
“[I]t is refreshing to see that no matter how disaffected from their church’s teachings some Catholics might feel, they believe that its organizations have a right to act in accordance with its principles.”
“Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists…
“Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-clericalism.
“The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared.”