The decision of a wide spectrum of Catholic institutions to join together in a lawsuit against the Obama administration should not come as a surprise. The HHS mandate that would force most Catholic institutions to provide contraception, sterilization services and abortive pills to employees is an unprecedented attack on the freedom of conscience and religious freedom. Furthermore, enacted in an electoral year to, reportedly, mobilize the more liberal segment of the electorate, this decision is an insult to Catholic voters.
The issue at stake is not accessibility to contraception, which is widely available at very low cost. The issue for Catholics, and all people of good will, is that the government feels compelled, for no compelling reason, to force individuals and institutions to act against their conscience. If this mandate becomes effective, those advancing the most secular agendas will have a precedent to claim that, in fact, religion does not belong in the public square, opening the door to other restrictions on religious freedom.
The Obama administration should make no mistake. Catholics of all political persuasions will be united on the need to defend individual freedom of conscience in front of an intrusive and unnecessary government mandate. That is at the core of Christian beliefs and even those currently not practicing their faith know that freedom of religion is intrinsic to who we are as a people. In our opinion, the apparent political calculation that forcing this issue will benefit the president in November is risky and will backfire.
Mr. President, there is still time to stop the HHS madness.