Considering the fact that the 2012 presidential election is only months away, the Obama administration's missteps in handling the Health and Human Services Department's contraceptive mandate are stunning. At best, the administration failed to gauge the Catholic Church's full fury when considering the realization of impending women's services requirements. Now, the rhetoric coming from those opposed the the measures has reached a boiling point, with one group already launching legal battles against the initiative.
On Friday, Obama attempted to temper the storm by releasing plans for an "accommodation" that would exempt religiously-affiliated universities and institutions from being forced to directly offer contraceptives and other controversial services. As the Blaze reported, under the "compromise," the insurers that these faith-related groups contract with will, indeed, be forced to cover contraceptives for those employees who wish to receive them.
This provision, while first being called a step in the right direction, was ultimately dubbed "unacceptable" by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Friday. The religious leaders contended, as they had before the president's so-called compromise, that the measure "must be corrected." Republican leaders, too, aren't backing down nor are they accepting the accommodation as a viable solution to the original religious infringement they observed.
"There’s no compromise here," GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a Catholic, said of Obama's changes to the mandate. "They are forcing religious organizations, either directly or indirectly, to pay for something that they find is a deeply, morally, you know, wrong thing. And this is not what the government should be doing."
Then, on Friday, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal and educational non-profit, released a letter from 100 scholars and leaders who had come together to oppose the administration's stance on the mandate. The large group contends that the regulation is "a grave violation of religious freedom" and that it "cannot stand." The letter reads, in part (read the entire letter here):
This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy. It is certainly no compromise. The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust. Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.
On Feb. 9, The Becket Fund also filed a lawsuit against the contraceptive mandate on behalf of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic news group founded by a nun named Mother Angelica. This lawsuit follows a previous legal battle waged by the group last year on behalf of Belmont Abbey College (a Catholic college) and Colorado Christian University (an evangelical college).
In describing these lawsuits and the religious-freedom issues associated with Obama's health care overhaul, the Heritage Foundation writes:
The Heritage Foundation has repeatedly criticized the Obamacare contraception mandate as a violation of religious freedom. Heritage has also pointed out that the Obama Administration’s actions, though entirely counter to the freedom of religion, “should not be surprising given the nature of the President’s health care law.” Religious freedom goes hand in hand with limited government and with freedom more generally. With intrusions of freedom as broad as those made by the Obamacare legislation, burdens on freedom of religious and moral conscience are likely to follow. Indeed, they have.
These developments come as Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announces that his state may be the first to also challenge the contraceptive mandate. Schuette is supporting The Becket Fund's lawsuits and plans to be in touch with other states about how they can assist in challenging the Obama administration's mandate.
"We cannot compromise religious liberty," Schuette said. "We cannot undermine constitutional protections...This is a radical attack on the First Amendment that cannot stand."