Barack Obama's re-election campaign unleashed its "Truth Team" to take on allegations that the administration is waging war with religion through its contraception mandate. Yet a legal expert said the team has unfairly twisted the discussion to gain votes.
Lawyer and Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Communications Director Emily Hardman said Obama's administration and re-election campaign are wrongly twisting the religious debate about the mandate to center around women's health and access to contraception.
"Access is not the issue at all – women can get coverage for contraception through Title X. There is not an access issue," Hardman told The Christian Post.
She was responding to the Barack Obama for America website Attackwatch.com which decided to take on the claim that the president is warring against religion by enforcing mandatory birth control coverage for American women.
"It's time to lay these attacks to rest," the website, created last month, states.
Branding themselves as the Truth Team, administrators of the site explained in the early February entry that the president is simply trying to ensure that all women have access to commonly-used preventive services.
"Scientists and medical experts agree that contraception is important for women's health. The fundamental belief behind this decision is that women should have access to this care, without having to worry about cost," the team argued.
They also cited a recent poll commission by Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAct) to demonstrate demand and approval for contraceptive drugs.
According to the study, 71 percent of all voters, male and female, said prescription birth control should be covered as a preventive health care service. Additionally, 77 percent of Catholic women voters also said that birth control should be covered as preventive health with no out-of-pocket expenses.
A 2011 Guttmacher Institute study also reported that 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control.
Hardman pointed out, however, that "what the [PPAct] poll does not ask is 'do you believe that your church should have to pay for it?'"
She believes if that question was asked, the message of the poll would have been dramatically different.
Most Catholics, liberal and conservative, do not believe that their church should be forced to provide services it does not agree with, she noted.
She also stressed that religious institutions do care and provide for women's health.
"We completely agree that women's health is very important. That why a number of religious groups have hospitals," Hardman commented.
A coalition of 22 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders from groups such as Catholics for Choice, Jewish Women International and Muslims for Progressive Values have backed the president's health care reform bill after it was tweaked last week. The new proposal requires insurance companies to directly provide free contraceptive services – which would include abortifacients and sterilization – to employees at religiously affiliated institutions (such as a hospital or charity) that have a moral objection to such services.
But many remain unconvinced that this new rule resolves anything, including the violation of religious liberty. Christians and churches expect to follow their conscience as they serve in industries they consider to be their ministry or religious vocation, Hardman noted.
"It goes completely against the tenets of one's faith to lose protection because you want to serve others," she said.
Hardman called the health care rule "the most radical and narrow in history."
And though religious institutions may no longer be required to directly cover services that go against their conscience, they will still be paying for the services in their premiums.
"Somebody still pays," she said. "People have to pay the premiums and that's the religious institutions."
Self-insured religious institutions are also still bound to pay for contraception coverage.
The pro-Obama website blamed the controversy surrounding the contraception mandate on the Republican presidential candidates' partisan attacks.
The war on religion phrase did in fact date back to former GOP contender Rick Perry's "Strong" ad, where he vowed to end "Obama's war on religion."
The website also took on Mitt Romney's record on religious liberty, accusing him of supporting a contraception mandate as Massachusetts governor.
Romney's campaign defended his record stating in a letter, "We do not agree with the claims that Gov. Romney is responsible for tax payer-funded abortion under the Massachusetts health care system. That blame lies solely on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court who ruled in 1981 that the Massachusetts Constitution required payment for abortions for Medicaid-eligible women."