(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
WASHINGTON – Newt Gingrich dismissed Barack Obama's attempt to compromise on the contraception mandate, saying that the president's war on the Catholic Church will not stop until he is voted out of the White House.
"I frankly don't care what deal he tries to cut; this is a man who is deeply committed. If he wins re-election, he will wage war on the Catholic Church the morning after he is re-elected," Gingrich said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Gingrich and other Catholics have been critical of the president's religious tolerance since Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that religious institutions such as hospitals, colleges and private grade schools would be required to pay for contraception coverage in insurance plans for its employees.
Before the announcement, Protestant churches and evangelical leaders were largely the only faith groups attacking the administration as anti-religious.
Evangelical rants have largely been ignored. Catholics, however, are an important constituency to the president. A majority of Catholics – 55 percent – voted for Obama during the 2008 election. Catholics also supported the president's health care reform bill.
To appease Catholics, Obama said Friday that insurance companies, and not employers that have a religious objection to providing contraceptive services (including abortifacients and sterilization) as part of their health plan, will be required to cover such services.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded with skepticism.
"While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them," Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of USCCB, said.
Evangelicals and pro-life groups are not buying the "compromise." Care Net President Melinda Delahoyde said in a statement, "Shifting the mandate to insurance companies rather than employers represents a political sleight of hand that changes nothing and continues to infringe on the freedom of conscience of faith-based employers.
"The president needs to know that objections to the contraceptive coverage mandate are not about money, but about abridging the fundamental religious liberty of faith-based institutions by entangling them in practices which violate their convictions."
Gingrich, a recently converted Catholic, expressed complete disapproval of the tweaked plan and of Obama. He accused the president of acting against the principles embedded in the founding of the country.
"This country was founded by people who came here in order to avoid religious persecution," he said. "The very basis of this country is religious liberty. Our core document says we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and Barack Obama seems to cut across those."
As president, Gingrich said he would usher in a total reversal.
"This administration is waging war on religion but so are the courts. This is why we need a movement that's bigger than just beating Obama. We need a movement that understands that we're going to change the Congress, the White House, the bureaucracy and where necessary, the court."