Obama's War on Religion Will Unite His GOP Opposition

The uproar over the Obamacare contraception mandate is about more than just birth control and Catholics

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[Read Nancy Pfotenhauer: Lessons From Barack Obama's Catholic Betrayal.]

Those who think this is simply a fight about women having a right to free contraception are wrong. This is bigger than contraception, and bigger than the Catholic Church. That's why leaders from some 40 non-Catholic organizations—Orthodox Jewish, Mennonite, and evangelical Christians, to name a few—signed a letter to the White House opposing the move.

The fear is that in its disregard for organized religion and the community services those religious groups deliver in educating children, providing healthcare and serving the poor, the administration will run good hospitals and schools out of business. That's a problem for parents of children at parish schools across the country; for millions of teachers and nurses and social workers who may lose their health insurance, many of whom are women; and for untold numbers of Americans who are the recipients of faith-based community service organizations that may go bankrupt. It's a problem for private insurance companies now forced to give free coverage. And it's a worry for leaders of other religions who think they might be next.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should Catholic and Other Religious Institutions Have to Cover Birth Control?]

It feeds the narrative that we've seen reflected in the polls for the last two years: voters think Obamacare will make healthcare worse. A majority of Americans has been opposed to the president's health care reform overhaul since it became law in 2009, with double-digit margins currently running against it. One recent Rasmussen poll put support for repeal ahead by twenty points, with opposition to Obamacare leading among independents, and most importantly, among both men and women. By mandating that private insurance companies provide free contraception for all Americans, the Obama administration has expanded federal control over both private insurance companies and religious institutions in a stunning way. As much as the White House would like this issue to die quietly now that there's been an "accommodation," I wouldn't bet on it. People see right through the administration's cynical ploy.

[Peter Roff: On Contraception Mandate, Obama Blunders Into the Culture Wars]

With this decision, the White House came across as deeply antagonistic to organized religion and disposed to big bureaucratic solutions at a time of vast distrust of the government. That's why this is so galvanizing to Catholic voters in swing states, especially Hispanics; to libertarians and First Amendment advocates; to independents and women concerned about Obamacare; to religious and social conservatives; and to those involved with faith-based organizations in their communities. It unites the entire GOP field, from libertarian Ron Paul to Mormon Mitt Romney to Catholics Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

Taking on organized religion over a matter of conscience was a huge miscalculation that backfired. The left went too far, and voters aren't likely to forget it. Everything that the right has suspected about Obama and his big-government plans came true with this ruling.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.
  • See a slide show of 10 things that are (and aren’t) in the healthcare bill.
  • Vote: Does Obama’s Contraceptive Compromise Go Far Enough?