- (Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
President Obama's attempt at a "compromise" in his new contraceptive coverage rule seems to have backfired and only further fanned the flames among evangelicals and conservative Catholics.
"Southern Baptists and people of other various faith communities are outraged with President Obama's so-called compromise on his administration's abortion mandate," Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told The Christian Post.
"What people need to consider is this so-called compromise clearly goes against our First Amendment rights," added Land. "Even Catholic women who use or have used contraceptives don't want the church or a religious institution to bear the cost. In his attempt to mollify his radical pro-abortion supporters, President Obama has declared that individual conscience is subject to government edict."
The controversy began on Jan. 20 when the Obama administration announced that religious institutions would be required to offer free contraceptives to employees as a health-care benefit.
Almost immediately, religious conservatives – most notably Catholics – began flooding the White House with protests. But even Archbishop Timothy Dolan failed to convince President Obama that he needed to drop the mandate altogether.
Christian conservative groups appear to be particularly upset that Obama does not seem to respect their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding various contraceptives that the government mandates they pay for.
"The president's so-called 'religious accommodation' today shows that he either has no comprehension of what conscience convictions mean or that he cynically chooses to disregard conscience and play a political game," noted Christian Medical Association CEO, Dr. David Stevens. "We learned from his executive order on abortion in health care reform that verbal engineering cannot cover up a contempt for conscience."
Given the fallout with conservatives, the White House seems to be betting on the fact that Republicans and social conservatives will overplay their hand by not accepting the president's olive branch. Democrat pundits said the White House's internal polling shows a majority, albeit a slim one, is in agreement with the president's plan even before the compromise was offered. Therefore, the White House may think it can safely navigate some rough political waters with little fallout before the November elections.
Time will tell if this calculated risk strategy is correct, but Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance for one does not see the issue as a small one.
"Requiring employers affiliated with the Christian faith, like Concerned Women for America, to include free abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plans is contrary to both Christian doctrine and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom," argued Nance. "When religious groups are forced to deny their deeply held religious convictions, it is not called 'balance;' it is called 'tyranny.'"
Another issue that will soon come to the surface is even though religious institutions can opt out of the plan, they still may end up paying for contraceptives if insurance companies increase their premiums or if they self-insure.
"It's kind of silly to think that insurance companies are going to give away these drugs for free," said Steve Miller, university counsel for Colorado Christian University in Denver. "My anticipation is that we are going to end up paying for it.