The New York Times puts it a little differently. More politely. Too politely.
Facing vocal opposition from religious leaders and an escalating political fight, the White House sought on Tuesday to ease mounting objections to a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Catholic universities and charities — to offer birth control to women free of charge.
That’s much too polite. What “religious leaders”? What are “religious leaders” anyway? And since when do they get to dictate to the elected government? Since when do unelected self-appointed so-called “religious leaders” get to tell secular representatives what to do? Since when did we give “religious leaders” a veto?
The White House, meaning the Obama administration, could just say that. It could and it should. It could just firmly say that a tiny number of men at the top of the Catholic hierarchy has no standing to boss the administration around.
Really. It should. It should point out, with cold politeness, that Catholic bishops don’t in fact represent anyone, they just act as if they do. They’re not elected, they’re not accountable, they can’t be recalled by the membership – they don’t represent anyone. They boss people, but they don’t represent them.
As the Republican presidential candidates and conservative leaders sought to frame the rule as showing President Obama’s insensitivity to religious beliefs, Mr. Obama’s aides promised to explore ways to make it more palatable to religious-affiliated institutions, perhaps by allowing some employers to make side insurance plans available that are not directly paid for by the institutions.
But that’s not their job, and it’s not something they should be doing. The government shouldn’t be trying to make laws “more palatable to religious-affiliated institutions.” That’s just an opening wedge for theocracy, so it’s a really crappy idea.
Even though Roman Catholic bishops and some Catholic institutions have sounded vocal opposition to the law, recent polls, which Obama officials were pointing to on Tuesday, show that a majority of Catholics favor the new contraceptive rule…
So what business can Obama possibly have helping their autocratic rulers take the new contraceptive rule away?
“I can’t tell you how many times we went over this,” one administration official said, speaking on grounds of anonymity. In the end, it was Mr. Obama himself who made the decision, aides say, calculating that at the end of the day, the issue of public health access outweighed the concerns of the religious institutions.
Good. Quite right. Now stick to it. When the Republicans bleat about “religious freedom,” defend the principle.