A group of center-right leaders have formed an advocacy group for religious freedom which may squash some inaccurate claims from liberals that those opposed to the Obama administration's actions regarding contraception are extremists, or engaging in a "war on women." POLITICO reports that the 510(c)4 organization "Conscience Cause" has been formed to stop "the implementation of a Department of Health and Human Services regulation which would compel people and organizations to pay for drugs and services that violate their faith."
Officials involved in the group's planning include former presidential adviser Mary Matalin, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, former RNC Chairman and Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, former Rep. Bill Paxon, former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn and New York Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik. Although he has endorsed Mitt Romney, Flynn is a the sole Democrat in the group thus far.
POLITICO reports that in an interview Monday, Matalin said that the new group is not intended to be an instrument of partisan politics, but rather to refocus the debate over HHS regulations on the issue of religious freedom.
“I love the Church, I love the Constitution. This is at the crossroads,” she said. “Voters, when they think through this, will understand what it’s about. It is absolutely not about contraception, which there is not a problem. And this group – I want to make this clear – does not have a uniform view of contraception.”
Matalin, a former George W. Bush adviser and wife of well-known Democratic strategist James Carville, defended the views of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum when he underwent intense media attacks at the end of February. Matalin said in an interview with Don Imus at the time that Santorum's views are not "extreme," but "he doesn't say it the right way."
"He’s not the extremist" Matalin said at the time. "What do you think is more extreme, private opposition to contraception or public support for partial birth abortion? You tell me what’s the more extreme position.”
Matalin told POLITICO that Conscience Cause plans to leverage “earned media, paid media, petitions” and more to spur a legislative debate on what has been a challenge to freedom and the protection of religious values.