“Because the new policy prohibits copays or deductibles for these “services,” they will for provided for 'free,'” Schuttloffel pointed out. “Which means they will be paid for with the premiums and taxes of people who do not use these services and who object to them.”
In his Washington Post column, Gerson compared the president's past praise of conscience rights, with his administration's choice to cut funding from the U.S. Catholic bishops' work against human trafficking.
On Jan. 12, 2009 – eight days before President Obama's inauguration – the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of Health and Human Services over its work with the U.S. bishops' Migration and Refugee Services.
The ACLU accused the government agency of setting up “an establishment of religion” by funding the Catholic humanitarian program, which did not refer women for abortion or contraception.
In October 2011, the Obama administration cut funding for the highly-rated program, after declaring it would give preference to programs offering “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”
“This was described by one official as 'standard procedure,'” wrote Gerson.
“So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.”
At Notre Dame, Obama promoted a “presumption of good faith” between those on opposite sides of the abortion debate. “When we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do,” he said, “that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. “
At an October 2011 Chicago fundraiser, however, the president's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was “in a war” against political opponents who “want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America.”
“This is no longer the 'presumption of good faith,'” noted Gerson, who said the Obama appointee had shown “all the hallmarks of a vendetta” against the pro-life movement.
Schuttloffel said the contraceptive mandate's “so-called religious exemption” signals the Obama administration's true policy toward religious groups.
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He called the narrow exemption the “most insidious aspect” of the Health and Human Services Department rules, since it “only applies to religious employers that have the inculcation of religious values as their purpose, and that employ and serve people who share their religious beliefs.”
“It will therefore not apply to Catholic universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations that serve the general public,” Schuttloffel noted.
“This is of a piece with the Obama Administration’s various efforts to define religious freedom down to mean nothing more than the freedom to worship in private. The broad, two-centuries old understanding of the First Amendment’s guarantee of 'free exercise' is being eviscerated.”
“Under the new policy, religious institutions are only rewarded with a religious exemption if they restrict their activities to worship,” the Kansas Catholic Conference director observed.
“But if they function as full participants in society, bringing their faith to bear on public life through education, health care, and advocacy, they will then be forced to provide medical services they find deeply immoral.”
At Notre Dame's 2009 commencement, President Obama praised the university's students for “service … performed at schools and hospitals; international relief agencies and local charities.” He described such works as “incredibly impressive, and a powerful testament to this institution.”