Some commentators have been opining that the White House is feeling the heat fanned into flame last week after President Barack Obama basically told the U.S. Catholic bishops to fall into line by next year with his administration’s new healthcare regulations. In support of this opinion, those commentators are now pointing to the appearance of President Obama’s political adviser, David Axelrod, on MSNBC. (The relevant portion begins at 3:45.)
If this opinion is accurate, the U.S. Catholic bishops’ response—focusing upon the free exercise of religion and First Amendment rights—cut to the bone. That’s why Axelrod said during the interview that the Obama administration didn’t intend to “abridge anyone’s religious freedom” with its regulation requiring church-affiliated employers to cover sterilization, birth control, and abortofacients for their employees. Yet, defending the administration, Axelrod said:
The bottom line is, this was a decision made with the interest of the health of millions around this country in mind.
Unrepentant and somewhat contrite, Axelrod noted: “We have great respect for the work that these institutions do, and we certainly don’t want to abridge anyone’s religious freedom. He then added that when making the decision, the Obama administration was struggling to strike a balance between a policy that “guarantees women the preventive care they need and one which respects the prerogatives of religious institutions.” Axelrod then went back to his political defense:
There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of women who work in these universities who are not Catholic. The question is whether they’re going … to have the same access to basic preventive care.
Acknowledging the dispute has caused a rift between the White House and the Roman Catholic Church, Axelrod extended an olive branch to the nation’s bishops, adding:
I’m less concerned about the messaging of this than finding a resolution that makes sense. I think we need to lower our voices and get together.
The Motley Monk doesn’t buy the opinion that the White House has been feeling the heat precisely because of what Axelrod said during the MSNBC interview. With 70%+ of self-identified Catholics disagreeing with Church teaching about sterilization, contraception, and abortion, Axelrod doesn’t fear losing “the Catholic vote.” No, his appeal to all of those women who work in Catholic institutions is meant to shore up their vote. That’s why Axelrod said:
This is an important issue. It’s important for millions of women around the country. We want to resolve it in an appropriate way and we’re going to do that.
Under the disguise of “protecting” all of those women who work in Catholic institutions, Axelrod and his boss, President Obama are willing to do exactly what the U.S. bishops have said they are doing, namely, trampling upon religious liberty and First Amendment rights.
But The Motley Monk’s opinion is that these two men are up to something else as well: Using all of those women to achieve what they really want, namely, agents of the federal to use the government’s regulatory powers to dictate that religious employers must violate their consciences if their organizations are to provide public services.
The logic is pretty clear: Beat the U.S. Catholic bishops on this issue and the rest of the dominoes will fall. All it will take is for all of those women to vote for the President who is protecting their so-called “freedoms.”
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