Not only Catholics but everyone in the Chattanooga area and indeed in our entire country should be troubled by the Obama administration's newly announced rule that religious schools', charities' and hospitals' health insurance programs must cover contraceptives.
Opinions on contraception vary, but the issue is not whether one agrees or disagrees with Catholic opposition to contraception. The issue is that the administration has violated the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty by forcing religiously affiliated organizations to offer contraception as part of their health care plans. The order violates long-held Catholic teachings against contraception and requires such institutions to ignore their religious beliefs.
It is not surprising that Catholic leaders in the Chattanooga area and elsewhere in Tennessee and Georgia have stated clear, powerful objections to this overreach by the Obama administration.
"This is a violation of the First Amendment and freedom of religion ...," Father Paul Williams of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Dalton, Ga., told the Times Free Press. "It has very little to do with the church's teaching on contraceptives and has everything to do with the government forcing us to violate our conscience."
He is absolutely right, but his concern should be shared by freedom-loving Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Neither should it make any difference whether or not Americans in general happen to believe that health insurance plans ought to include contraception. The Bill of Rights was written to safeguard fundamental freedoms. Those liberties are not subject to being denied on a presidential whim.
Republicans in Congress have denounced the Obama administration's attack on religious liberty, and even some Democrats have objected. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called the administration's decision a "direct affront to religious freedoms."
If the president will not reverse course, Congress should take action.