(Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
A former Obama official expressed his disappointment in the Obama administration's decision to mandate coverage of contraceptive, abortifacient and sterilization services without an exemption for all religious institutions morally opposed to using those services.
The contraception mandate is "inconsistent with who Barack Obama is, at least as I see him," Ambassador Douglas Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University School of Law, said in a Tuesday interview with The Christian Post. "I've always admired him for his desire to find common ground among people and his desire to not divide people in any way that can be avoided."
Kmiec, a Catholic, was a Republican and had worked in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, but he supported Obama in 2008. He wrote an editorial about a month before that election arguing that a Catholic can, in good conscience, vote for Obama, because, Obama is a "bridge builder" and someone who seeks to lessen political division in the nation.
"This isn't the person I campaigned for in 2008," Kmiec said. "This isn't the person who talked to the Sojourners conference in 2006 and explained that it was wrong for the Democrats in the past to treat the evangelicals as a bloc, thinking in only one direction, and it was similarly wrong for the evangelicals to write off the Democrats and see that they have an appreciation for faith."
Kmiec believes that he, and others who supported Obama in 2008 under the impression that he would uphold religious conscience protections, have "a certain level of credibility" with Obama, because "he knows we have his best interest at heart."
"We've supported him in the past, sometimes at great cost to ourselves in terms of our friendships and people not fully understanding why we would do so," he stated.
The contraception mandate is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration reaffirmed the mandate last month, outraging faith-based nonprofits despite the additional year they were given to comply with it.
The mandate has an exemption for religious groups, but the exemption is so narrow that most religious institutions would not qualify. Adding such a narrow exemption is a "double insult," in Kmiec's view.
"This notion that you have to demonstrate that you are primarily only serving those of your own religion, that you're hiring primarily those of your own religion and that you've got an entity that is inculcating your religious beliefs, that, really is almost a second offense to put out an exemption of that nature because it cuts against so much of the Gospel message of being there for the stranger, being there for anyone who comes to your door."
Kmiec was appointed by Obama as ambassador to Malta in 2009 and was tasked with a project on interfaith diplomacy. He resigned from that position in April of last year after he felt that the State Department was attempting to silence his faith-based writings and speeches.
Kmiec finds parallels between his resignation and the contraception mandate.
"There is a failing that I am troubled by in terms of the administration. The president can give very strong and positive direction and, somehow, there is a failure in transmission in the carrying out of the idea. ... It was a disappointment that the president didn't actively supervise what his subordinates were doing in the State Department, which was a different direction. That was the frustration."