Rationing Religious Freedom

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Under Barack Obama's free-contraceptives fiat, only insular religious groups, such as the Amish, enjoy conscience protections. But religions that dare to venture out into the public square and help the poor lose them and must submit to Obama's secularist morality.

"Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths," noted the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America after the HHS mandate was announced. "The Administration's ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization's religious principles."

In seeking to win reelection largely on the votes of women, Obama has highlighted his coercion of the religious. Of course, he casts this coercion in indirect, euphemistic, and often absurd terms. For example, on the campaign trail last week, Obama reassured college students that in his second term they will not have to choose between paying for contraceptives and paying for textbooks: "I don't think a college student in Fairfax or Charlottesville should have to choose between textbooks or the preventive care that she needs."

The hook-up culture of higher education grows ever more entitled and has found a friend in Obama. How times change. Not so long ago a president would have been mortified by such an association; even Bill Clinton disapproved of the co-ed dorms at Stanford after dropping Chelsea off there. But Obama isn't afraid of losing the parental vote by appearing too supportive of promiscuity.

In fact, his campaign has sent out a jokey "e-card" predicated on the assumption that parents now prefer free contraceptives for their children to the preservation of religious freedom. It says: "Dear Mom, Mitt Romney says he would repeal the Affordable Care Act. So here's a quick question: Can I borrow $18,000 to help pay for my birth control? Thanks!"

Even the Washington Post found this message ludicrous, noting that the Obama campaign was using Planned Parenthood's estimation of lifetime costs for contraceptives out of context: "We question whether many young women have asked their parents to cover a lifetime's worth of contraceptive co-payments before the coverage requirement took effect (it still hasn't taken effect for some women), and it's no more likely that they'll do so if Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act."

Obama provided another justification for curtailing religious freedom last week: the need to ration health care, out of which the contraceptive mandate comes.

Dropping into his remarks this cold calculus, he claimed that free contraceptives save money for all: "And it's good for our health care system in general -- because we know the overall cost of care is lower when women have access to contraceptive services."

The central planners of ObamaCare see the contraceptive mandate as a sweeping cost-cutting device, which should send a chill up the spines of all Americans, religious or not, for what begins as a right under this rationing mentality will surely end as a duty. "Access" to free contraceptives will become in time a requirement to us them. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and the paymaster wants widespread contraceptive use.

Called to testify before Congress earlier this year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was asked by Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy, "Who pays for [the free contraceptives]? There's no such thing as a free service." Like a crass Soviet commissar, Sebelius curtly replied: "The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for cost of contraception." An astonished Murphy countered: "So you are saying, by not having babies born, we are going to save money on health care?"

Yes, according to Obama's view. In his America, pregnancy is a curse (he doesn't want his daughters "punished with a baby," as he once put it), fertility is a disease "to be prevented," and contraceptives serve as a solution to deficits. (That is why contraceptive funding found its way into his "Stimulus package." Pressed by reporters on this bizarre addition to that legislation, Nancy Pelosi huffed: "It will reduce costs.")

Obama's vision of health care is from cradle to grave, from free contraceptives to quality-of-care panels for the elderly. And the key to accomplishing this vision of central planning is universal participation. If he allowed Catholic hospitals, which are the largest private provider of health care in the country, to be exempt from that participation, his fantasy of "expanded coverage" at less cost would falter.

On Obama's animal farm, everything must be rationed, including religious freedom.

George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author (with Phyllis Schlafly) of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.

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