By Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council …
A headline from the Washington Post declares: “The culture war is back!” Well, I hate to break it to them, but the culture war never went away. Some Republicans may have called for a truce, but President Obama never has. Instead, he is staying the course in his quest to “fundamentally change America.” People are waking up to this not-so-covert mission thanks to a portion of the government’s health care takeover that reveals his total disregard for the First Amendment. It started with ObamaCare, exploded in the military, and 21 days ago, knocked on faith’s front door.
This time, the president took his fight directly to the church. His ultimatum: Violate or vacate. Violate your beliefs and fund potentially life-taking drugs or vacate the social services that help millions of Americans. Or neither, and face millions of dollars in fines. Instead of flinching, the church rallied. Now, backed into a corner by an army of angry Republicans and Democrats, the President is trying to soften the blow. He announced today that his administration would “accommodate” religious organizations by putting the burden on insurers to provide “free” contraceptive pills, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilizations. The president claims that paying for contraception is good business, because it saves the insurance companies money from unintended pregnancies down the road.
Really? If this is such a great cost-cutting idea, why didn’t insurance companies offer “free” coverage years ago? Insurance companies are not charities. They will offset these increased costs by increasing the premiums for religious organizations and other businesses. So where is the accommodation? The main difference is that these contraceptive and abortifacient drugs would not technically be listed as one of the benefits the employer is paying for directly.
Immediately, Congressmen like Chris Smith (R-N.J.) issued statements calling the adjustment a “political manipulation” that only the “most naive or gullible would accept.” The policy is “riddled with doublespeak and contradiction. It states, for example, that religious employers ‘will not’ have to pay for abortion pills, sterilization, and contraception, but their ‘insurance companies’ will. Who pays for the insurance policy? The religious employer.” Even the president’s team acknowledged that it wasn’t really backing off the original plan. “We’re sticking to principle,” officials said. Only now, the problem will affect more than just faith-based hospitals, schools, and charities; the Obama administration is shifting some of the burden to small business owners, who may also have religious objections.
And it certainly won’t come cheap. Initial estimates put the cost of this “free” birth control in the neighborhood of $2.8 billion (not including the cost of more expensive contraceptive methods that would also be covered under the president’s mandate). Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops have already hinted that they would accept nothing less than a full policy reversal. They know these changes are nothing but accounting gimmicks that just enlist more people in the war on religious liberty. Faith groups would still be subsidizing health care plans they morally oppose, and that’s a gross infringement of religious conscience rights.
Of course, these rights are not the president’s to give or take away.