WASHINGTON-- From politicians to regular Americans, most gathered here Thursday for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. had something to say about President Obama's proposal requiring all employers to offer health insurance plans that include free birth control--including those who oppose contraception on religious grounds.
"This administration is assaulting the Catholic church," former presidential candidate and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the crowd gathered here at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel. "The Obama administration's war on faith must be defeated. We must win this war. We must protect this basic tenet of American freedom."
The opinion that Obama administration is trampling on the religious liberties of church-run hospitals, universities and charities was also espoused by sitting lawmakers at CPAC, including tea party favorite (and oft-mentioned vice presidential pick) Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
"I don't know what the South African Constitution says about these things," Rubio said during his speech. "But I know what the U.S. Constitution says about it: what it says is that the federal government does not have the power to force religious organizations to pay for things that that organization thinks is wrong." The room erupted in applause.
"What this White House is now saying is that the federal government will impose a fine on Catholic institutions for no other reason than that the religious beliefs of Catholics happen to run counter to those of this specific president," McConnell said. He added that this is more than a "violation of conscience," the proposed fines could cost a university like Notre Dame "$10 million dollars a year."
But the proposal isn't just sparking fierce opposition on the Hill. Attendees Thursday--many of whom are students attending schools across the country-- told Yahoo News that they were already well-aware of the president's proposal when they arrived at the conference this morning and that they were angered by the news.
You can watch select attendees voice their opinions and feelings about the proposal in the video above.
But not everyone Thursday sought to play off of the issue as a potential motivator for the conservative crowd.
The contraception proposal was notably absent from former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's speech. The socially conservative Minnesota congresswoman instead chose to solely focus her speech on foreign policy-- though she did generally call for audience members to stand up for their "beliefs" and for freedom.
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