Pressure is mounting on the White House to reverse its appalling decision to force religious institutions to violate core doctrinein order to comply with Obamacare. But as some liberals begin to break ranks with his administration -- we'll get to that in a moment -- the president is reportedly doubling down on his radical assault on the First Amendment:
President Obama “reinforced” his stance on the controversial contraception mandate while speaking at the Democrats’ annual retreat at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. today, Senate Democrats said. The retreat was closed to media. Following President Obama’s speech at the retreat, a small group of Senate Democrats, mostly women, left the retreat early in order to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill to counter the Republicans’ news conference today at which they called for the mandate to be overturned. Democrats said they will “fight strongly” to keep the mandate in place.
Democrats today called on Republicans to stop using women as a “political football,” and stop defining this debate, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did earlier in the day, as a religious issue. “It’s time to tell Republicans ‘mind your own business,’” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. ”Ideology should never be used to block women from getting the care they need to lead healthier lives.
It seems as though reports that Obama was reconsidering his position were off-base. Let's be very clear here. Contra some Democrats' talking points, this is emphatically not a women's issue. This is a clear-cut Constitutional issue. The First Amendment -- which liberals regularly (and falsely) invoke to discredit a worldview that conflicts with their ahistorical view of the "separation of church and state" -- is unambiguous on this point:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
In this case, Obama is directly prohibiting Catholics and other religious organizations from freely exercising their faith by requiring them to provide services and "benefits" that directly violate the tenets of their faith. In other words, maybe it's the government that should "minding its own business," to rephrase Sen. Lautenberg perversion of the truth. As much as Democrats froth at the mouth about Republicans "using women as political footballs," this is not a partisan issue. As I said before, it is a core Constitutional question, which should transcend ideology. A double-digit majority of Americans understand this, as do an overwhelming majority of US Catholics. Encouragingly, a growing number of Democrats and Center-Left figures are publicly dissenting from Obama's indefensible dictate:
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who faces re-election in November, sent a letter to Obama complaining that the mandate is a "direct affront to religious freedoms." Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., said in January that the decision "violates the long-standing tradition of protection for conscience rights in federal law." Tim Kaine, a Catholic seeking the Senate seat in Virginia, said he supports contraceptive coverage but thinks there should be a broader exemption for religious organizations.
Democrat-aligned Senators Lieberman and Casey have also joined the chorus of opposition, as have liberal Catholic media figures such as Chris Matthews and EJ Dionne, who called the presidents' decision "frightening" and a "betrayal" on MSNBC:
The president and many of his Congressional Democrat allies are far outside of the American mainstream here, and their disregard for the plain text of our Consitution has been laid bare. As Sen. Marco Rubio pointed out during a briefing with a small group of conservative journalists at CPAC earlier this morning, even Obama's own Vice President and outgoing Chief of Staff cautioned against this move. Bloomberg confirms this account:
Vice President Joe Biden and then-White House chief of staff Bill Daley, also Catholics, warned that the mandate would be seen as a government intrusion on religious institutions. Even moderate Catholic voters in battleground states might be alienated, they warned, according to the people familiar with the discussions.
Other reports suggested that Obama's political team made the calculation that although this mandate might alienate some Catholic voters, it could energize women and young voters -- as if those groups uniformly support this affront to religious liberty. Obama to people of Faith and the Constitution: Drop Dead. This president must go, and ought not be afforded, in Rubio's words, "a contract extension after four losing seasons."
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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