President Obama's decision to force the Catholic Church to subsidize medical services it abhors has set the stage for a political backlash.
Catholic Church leaders from across the country are expressing outrage over plans by the Obama administration to force church-run institutions to provide employee insurance coverage for services the church abhors.
"We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law," said Phoenix Archbishop Thomas Olmsted.
Closer to home, the Catholic Conference of Illinois also has spoken out in opposition to plans to force Catholic-run institutions to provide insurance coverage that covers abortion and contraception.
"The government is attempting to compel Catholic institutions to either violate their own teaching or to drop employee health coverage (and suffer the penalties for doing so)," wrote Zach Wichmann of Springfield in a letter expressing the church's opposition to the Obama mandate.
It's not just Catholics who should be alarmed at this vast overreach of federal authority. Anyone who places credence in the First Amendment freedom of religion guarantee, or even the U.S. Constitution itself, should stand with the Catholic Church on this issue.
The church is reacting to the Obama administration's recent decision giving church-run institutions one year to comply with the insurance mandate. Churches themselves are exempt from the mandate, but church-run institutions, like hospitals, have been given their marching orders by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
The church's rhetorical opposition is apocalyptic. If it will not comply, in what ways will it not comply?
Will it subject itself to the financial penalties the Obama administration will impose? Will it shut the doors of the institutions it runs if the federal requirement to violate church doctrine is not withdrawn?
Or will it complain loudly and then roll over in acceptance to the government's demand that it finance what church teaching insists it condemns?
Time will tell. The church obviously intends to build political opposition to the mandate, and, with Obama seeking re-election, it's a good time to do it.
But church leaders in Illinois also expressed outrage over Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to terminate state contracts for adoption services with Catholic-church run agencies in the face of the church's opposition to the new civil union law for same-sex couples. Then rather than wage a legal, legislative or political battle to defend the church's right to stand by its religious tenets, church leaders quietly retired from the field of battle. They didn't so much lose as give up.
The Obama mandate, however, is a far bigger issue. Church-run social service organizations and hospitals each year meet the needs of millions of people all across the country. They are part and parcel of the fabric of this country, but they also represent one of the core functions of church doctrine.
To suggest, as Obama administration officials do, that they are not a part of the church and therefore are subject to this sweeping mandate ignores the entire reason for their existence.
It's understandable why the Obama administration wants as many employers and employees as possible under the yoke of its one-size-fits-all plan. That, after all, is the big idea under the concept of Obamacare, just as religious teaching is the big idea under the Catholic Church's social services network.
But these two big ideas are mutually exclusive, and the biggest idea of all — the concept of religious freedom on which this country was founded — must stand supreme.