Peggy Noonan thinks that a ruling President Obama signed this week might prove to have cost him re-election. I wouldn’t go that far, but it just might cost him the support of Roman Catholics from the right, left, and center, a big hit for a Democrat. He signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says that under ObamaCare, all Catholic institutions–schools, hospitals, charitable organizations–will be required to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures, subject to heavy fines for non-compliance. This is a massive assault on the conscience clause that has historically protected religious institutions, primarily those engaged in health care, from state infringement on their right to conduct policy consistent with their creed, and it has been assumed to be applicable to their affiliates as well. In effect, Catholics are being required to leave their Catholicism at the door of their employment.
Ironically, this decision came almost at the same time that the Supreme Court unanimously held that a Lutheran school’s decision to dismiss a teacher is an internal policy issue that cannot be challenged under federal employment laws. So it would appear that the Court might be sympathetic to the Church, and certainly we should hope so, because the conscience clause is an important linchpin of the genius of the first amendment protection of free exercise of religion. Pardon me if I am tempted to chide many of my Catholic friends who have been playing with fire in supporting this guy and now have been burned.