It is not clear why profit-driven businesses must be compelled to do something that supposedly boosts their bottom lines. Testifying at last week's congressional hearing, Catholic University President John Garvey called the administration's cost argument a "Shazam Theory" that "resolves the intrusion on religious liberty by making the compelled contributions magically disappear." Even if the administration were right about the net financial impact of its mandate, Garvey added, his university still would be "forced to pay for ... activities we view as immoral."
The mandate's supporters seem genuinely puzzled by the notion that their cost-benefit analyses do not override religious liberty. "Why should an employer's right to reject birth-control coverage trump a society's collective imperative to reduce unintended pregnancy?" asks Harvard College administrator Erika Christakis in a recent Time essay.
Christakis has a degree in public health, which helps explain her unabashed embrace of collectivism and her blithe assumption that individual rights must yield to the demands of medical experts who know what is best for us. But Obama used to teach constitutional law, so he surely understands that the free exercise of religion is supposed to be guaranteed even when it's inconvenient.
By exempting churches from the birth control mandate, Obama concedes their religious freedom is at stake. But he arbitrarily denies that freedom to church-affiliated organizations. Although he acknowledges "many genuine concerns" about the mandate, he isn't willing to address them in a genuine way.
Christakis has some advice for people forced to subsidize services condemned by their religion: Suck it up. She says, "The cost of living in a democracy is tolerating moral judgments we don't always like." Yet that is exactly what Obama refuses to do.