A Gratuitous Assault on Religious Liberty

There is the sense that the entire fight about religious liberty is a culture war of choice on the part of the present administration.

Why has this become a heated political battle and a Supreme Court case? It’s hard to avoid one simple answer: It has happened this way because the Obama administration wanted it to. The president saw an advantage in going out of his way to spark a highly divisive cultural, political, and legal battle that leaves some of his fellow Americans with the sense that their most basic liberties are threatened rather than going out of his way to avoid it.

 

If you’re following the Little Sisters of the Poor case that is now before the Supreme Court, I highly recommend reading Michael McConnell’s comments on the supplemental briefs filed in the case yesterday, here.

McConnell puts his finger on exactly the sense I had in reading the government’s brief—the sense that the entire fight about religious liberty created by the administration’s mandate that employers who offer health insurance must include coverage for free access to some abortive and contraceptive drugs has just been so gratuitous and avoidable. It is a culture war of choice on the part of the Obama White House.

It’s important to see that the Obama Administration picked this fight. The so-called HHS mandate is not in the Obamacare statute, and indeed if it had been in the law there is no way that Obamacare would have passed either house of Congress in 2010, even given the Democrats’ control of Congress then. Rather, the mandate is a function of the administration’s interpretation of a very broad provision of the statute allowing HHS to define the minimal requirements for health insurance coverage. The administration was under no legal obligation to include contraceptive or abortive coverage in that definition. The White House chose to do that, surely knowing that it would invite exactly the kind of fight that has ensued.

Read More