|New Polls Suggest Assault on Religious Freedom a Political Loser|
|BY TIMOTHY H. LEE |
THURSDAY, MARCH 15 2012
New opinion polls and government deficit projections create unexpected new difficulties for ObamaCare and its assault against religious liberty, as well as Obama’s reelection effort generally.
In fact, the issue has turned so quickly against Obama that he pivoted from contriving it as a political bludgeon to despairing that others might use it as a political bludgeon against him.
The issue, of course, is the attempted new ObamaCare contraceptive mandate for religious employers. Desperate for an election year wedge issue to counteract failed economic policies, rising gasoline prices, trillion-dollar deficits and flagging popularity, the Obama Administration drafted a new federal regulation earlier this year that would suddenly require religious institutions to provide “free” abortives and contraceptives even if doing so violates their fundamental theological principles. Such a requirement contravenes the First Amendment’s explicit free exercise clause, which states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
As we emphasized last month, this is not a debate about contraceptives themselves, and it’s dishonest to claim otherwise.
After all, contraceptives were placed beyond prohibition nearly half a century ago by the United States Supreme Court inGriswold v. Connecticut (1965). So this is not about some new effort to restrict abortives or contraceptives currently available. Rather, it’s an issue of the federal government suddenly trying to force religious institutions to violate their theological principles by either (a) providing abortives and contraceptives against their conscience, or (b) abandoning the charitable causes in which their theology requires that they engage.
Attempting to force that choice violates the explicit terms of the First Amendment.
Now, two new polls suggest surprising popular opposition to Obama’s proposed mandate, including among women.
According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, “when asked whether the government should mandate that Roman Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals and colleges offer birth control paid for by the institutions’ insurance companies – as required by the rule – Americans were opposed by 45% to 38%.” When asked more specifically whether the government should require religious institutions to provide contraceptives such as the “morning-after pill,” opposition increased to 49% to 34% overall. In what must have jolted White House officials, women were opposed by a substantial 46% to 35% margin.
Similarly, a New York Times/CBS News poll this week produced the same result. By a 53% to 38% margin, women respondents said that “religiously affiliated employers should be able to opt out of the birth-control rule that requires employers, including religious institutions, to offer contraceptive drugs free of charge.” Opposition among respondents overall was even higher.
Startled that this issue appears to be backfiring on him, Obama changed course and complained about “using religion as a bludgeon in politics.” As reported by The Hill:
“Obama said it’s a problem when religion is used ‘to divide, instead of bring the country together’ in an interview that aired Monday on Iowa TV. ‘When we start using religion as a bludgeon in politics, we start questioning other people’s faith, we start using religion to divide, instead of bring the country together, then I think we’ve got a problem,’ Obama told Des Moines’s local NBC affiliate, WHO TV.”
So there you have it. After commencing a divisive assault against religious liberty, Obama now protests the consequences of his decision.
But that wasn’t the end of the bad news for the Obama Administration.
When selling his healthcare proposal before a nationwide audience in September 2009, Obama promised, “the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years.” He also said, “The plan will not add to our deficit.”
This week, however, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined that ObamaCare will cost $1.762 trillion over the next 10 years. By now, Americans are accustomed to broken promises from Obama, but this instance provided particular symmetry because ObamaCare will cost almost exactly twice as much as he guaranteed.
Accordingly, the centerpiece of Obama’s presidency continues to prove less popular and less fiscally sustainable as time progresses.
The way things are going, rising gas prices may become a welcome diversion to him.