Much was made of the president's supposed compromise on requiring religious institutions to pay for their employees' contraceptives and sterilization drugs. "The new policy," a White House fact sheet declared, "fully accommodates important concerns raised by religious groups." While news headlines were more restrained ("Obama bends on birth-control mandate" was the Boston Globe's), they did suggest that if the administration had not completely conciliated its critics, it had at least met them halfway.
But the administration hadn't compromised at all: On the same day the White House announced its "full accommodation," it formally adopted -- without change -- the very regulation that had triggered the backlash. The compromise turned out to be merely a promise to modify the new rule before it goes into effect next year. And the promised modification in any case is a distinction without a difference: Rather than require church-affiliated institutions to insure their employees for birth control, the feds will require church-affiliated institutions to provide their employees with health insurance that will pay for birth control. If you don't like green eggs and ham, you can eat ham and green eggs. Some accommodation.
During the national debate over enacting ObamaCare in 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously declared that Congress would "have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." What's in it, millions of Americans now realize, goes well beyond the mandate that forces every individual to obtain health insurance or be fined by the IRS. There is also imperious culture-war bullying, in which religious employers with grave objections to abortion and artificial birth control are commanded to buy insurance policies covering them, regardless of their moral qualms.
You don't have to be Catholic to be alarmed when the government rides roughshod over the convictions of the faithful. Or to bristle at the prospect of individuals and institutions being coerced into complicity with acts that violate their deepest beliefs. Or to realize how impoverished American civic life would be without the myriad of charities, schools, hospitals, shelters, and social-welfare agencies created to put those beliefs into practice.
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