From the campaign trail last month, GOP contender Newt Gingrich said US President Barack Obama had declared a “war on the Catholic Church.” Some clergy have heard that call and are warning the president: look out, we’re ready to rumble.
Responding to the Obama-mandated health insurance policies, Catholic leaders throughout America are outraged over what is being perceived by some as a serious assault on their religion. Under Obama’s health care plan, Catholic hospitals and universities will be required to offer free birth control to employees. While the law will not include entities with solely religious purposes, such as churches, it will extend to church-affiliated companies that do not exclusively support a religious-minded agenda.
Under the provision put forth last month by the president, health plans provided by Roman Catholic institutions that cover non-Catholics must front the cost of “all FDA approved contraceptives, including those that induce abortion.” Even if the policy is aimed at only a section of the church, Catholic leaders say Obama’s insurance plan is an attempt to take down the church by infiltrating it with God-less ideals on their religion, and according to some, they won’t go down without a fight.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League says the move is a milestone in terms of taking on the Church, and tells CBS News that it is “unprecedented in American history …for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church.”
“This is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets,” adds Donohue.
Upon announcement of the provision to the health plan last month, former Speaker Newt Gingrich said on NBC that is accentuated “a radical Obama administration imposing secular rules on religion” and signaled “a tremendous infringement of religious liberty” that would spawn “very substantial” political fallout.
“Every time you turn around secular government is closing in on and shrinking the rights of religious America,” said Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism in 2009. At a separate speaking engagement last month, he specifically called out the president for launching a “war on the Catholic Church.”
The White House has defended last month’s decision, however, insisting that providing contraception free of charge will signal a decline in abortions. The Catholic Church still opposes provided contraception and disputes the argument, and some say it doesn’t stop right there.
“It’s not about contraception. It’s about the right of conscience,” Archbishop Timothy Dolan tells reporters. “The government doesn’t have the right to butt into the internal governance and teachings of the church,” he insists.
“Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience,” adds Dolan. “This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."
Other Catholics are coming out to go after Obama, and the impact could be detrimental to his re-election bid. While Obama won the majority of the votes from American Catholics in 2008, his stance on offering contraception has already attracted mini critics from the church. A grassroots campaign waged against the policy started last year by Archbishop Dolan yielded 57,000 complaints over the plan.