The last problem any candidate needs just months out from a tough presidential campaign season is to find him or herself embroiled in an epic war with people of faith. But in the first two months of 2012, this is exactly what President Barack Obama is facing. As the days progress, the rhetoric against his administration's contraceptive mandate -- particularly among religious leaders and communities -- continues to intensify. On Monday, evangelical pastors joined Roman Catholic clergy in an effort to rail against the policy.
During the National Religious Broadcasters convention, an annual event that focuses on faith and media, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins spoke about the mandate. Perkins, among others, objects to the Obama administration's mandate that all employers -- including religious institutions, non-profits and hospitals -- cover contraception, Plan B and sterilizations, among other women's health services (read The Blaze's extensive coverage of this debate).
During his address, he claimed that more than 2,500 pastors and evangelical leaders have signed a letter to Obama urging him to reconsider the mandate. The letter reads, in part (you read the rest here):
This mandate was not necessary, nor warranted under the provision of "preventive care services for women" contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Worse still is the fact that the mandate essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans. Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans. It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms. [...]
The contraceptive mandate with the requirement that there will be no co-pay to the patient means millions of Americans will incur the additional cost for these drugs and devices. Forcing religious entities to do the same, despite objections of good conscience, is a severe blow to our religious liberty. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779, which passed in 1786, and set the stage for the First Amendment. In it, Jefferson states: "to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical." Consequently, we ask that you would reverse this decision and protect the conscience rights of those who havebiblically-based opposition to funding or providing contraceptives and abortifacients.
LifeSiteNews.com explains the importance of this issue in evangelical circles:
This is not a Catholic issue. This is a religious freedom issue. As a matter of fact, as Catholic Philly reported on February 14, and another recent poll indicated, Evangelicals oppose the contraception mandate more than any other religious group…
Considering that most Protestants and non-Catholic Christians do not stand in opposition to contraception, this support is noteworthy. Of course, Plan B, which is dubbed by some to be an abortion-inducing drug, is seen as potentially problematic by some Protestants.
"This is not a Catholic issue," Perkins reiterated. "We will not tolerate any denomination having their religious freedom impinged upon by the government."
Others joined Perkins in chastising the Obama administration and pledging to fight the regulation. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, promised to challenge the mandate both in court and in Congress.
"We are not going to stand by and allow our God-given rights, protected by the Constitution, to be atrophied, neutered, confined and restricted," he said.
Watch Perkins and Land discuss these issues, below:
The spirit of these proclamations is one of religious freedom, regardless of whether one is a Catholic or stands in opposition to birth control. It is this sentiment that has led Glenn Beck to take the same stance. As The Blaze reported yesterday, Beck is seeking to form a collective comprised of people who espouse diverse theological views, but who share a passion and willingness to stand up for religious freedom.
As evidenced through his work, he has long encouraged people of all faiths to stand together — distinct and separate in their beliefs — but united in their support of everyone to practice those ideals without persecution.
Read more about Beck's trip to Rome over the weekend, where he discussed these issues with Catholic leaders and pledged his support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.