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Speer: President errs on contraception issue

February 10, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

President Barack Obama is no stranger to religious controversy. Unfortunately, he seems a magnet to such issues, the latest being the administration's controversial policy on birth control as it pertains to religious institutions.

As I read the news last week I cringed. Why does this administration continuously venture into these controversial faith-based issues? Sitting there pondering that question, I couldn't help but think of former Congressman Bart Stupak.

I wondered what Stupak was thinking today?

All this might have been avoided back in the spring of 2010 if only Stupak had stood his ground over federal funding of abortions in the Obamacare legislation. At the time Stupak had drawn a line in the sand over his position against federal funding of abortions, the president needed his vote in order to get the bill passed, and the two were in a staredown. At first it appeared as if Stupak wouldn't capitulate, but ultimately, the pressure was too much and he did.

Stupak couched his surrender based on a promise by Obama that he would sign an executive order that no federal money would be used to fund abortions under Obamacare.

Yeah, but ... Today it is contraceptives, tomorrow abortions?

For many, especially Catholics, this seems like yet another attack by the Obama administration against religion.

And, unlike when Stupak had the chance to be a hero but caved, this time the administration may have stirred up a hornet's nest it later may come to regret in this election year.

Reaction since the original announcement has been loud, angry and very pointed.

Wednesday House Speaker John Boehner accused the administration of violating First Amendment rights and undermining some of the country's most vital institutions, such as Catholic charities, schools and hospitals. According to Associated Press, Boehner demanded that Obama rescind the policy or else Congress would.

"This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country cannot stand, and will not stand," he said.

The issue is not contraception, said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., but "whether the government of the United States should have the power to go in and tell a faith-based organization that they have to pay for something that they teach their members shouldn't be done. It's that simple. And if the answer is yes, then this government can reach all kinds of other absurd results."

Our own congressman, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, said "President Obama's health care law, the so-called Obamacare plan (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), was bad legislation when it passed, and remains bad legislation today as elements of the bill are beginning to come into effect."

Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan didn't hide his displeasure: "In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences."

He asserted "To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable."

And finally, Bishop Bernard Hebda of the Diocese of Gaylord, in a paid advertisement in our newspaper Friday, said, concerning the policy: "The administration has cast aside our nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty ... We cannot, and will not, acquiesce to this unjust law."

Obama might have won the battle with Stupak, but I sense he is about to lose the war with the will of the rest of the nation. In fact, as I finished this column, Associated Press was reporting he would announce later Friday a revision in his original position, and back away from forcing religious employers from providing the coverage.

Civil liberties, including freedom of religion, have stood the test of time for over 200 years. They are just as important today, if not more so, than they were when first adopted.

The president should have understood that.

The fact that he didn't, I think, speaks volumes.



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