President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign team is pushing back against the uproar caused by his suggestion that some religious employees aren’t worthy of a religious exemption from new sex-related insurance regulations.
But even some of his supporters are using his campaign website to declare their opposition to his policy.
The growing furor threatens to damage Obama’s already-weak support among swing-voting white Catholics in critical midwest states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“November is a long time away… [but] the reaction suggests they may be having a problems,” said Tevi Troy, a former deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services in President George W Bush’s administration.
Obama’s Jan. 20 decision directed the Catholic Church and other religious groups to buy contraception-related health insurance for employees at their hospitals, universities and charity groups, or pay heavy fines. Obama’s directive was based on his 2010 health-sector law.
That move is controversial because it uses the state power to pressure churches to abandon their religious opposition to contraception.
Critics say the decision violates the First Amendment, which says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Catholic leaders says contraception distorts marriage’s religious, social and life-creating purposes.
In a partial concession to the church’s objections, the administration said church leaders need not buy contraception insurance for the clerics and employees who work in churches.
Since the controversial decision, White House officials and Democratic legislators have tried to sideline critics and divert media concern.
On Friday, the campaign joined in by using the campaign website to post a brief memo justifying the regulations — “women will have access to the care and family planning services they need… it will also save employers money” — and then asked supporters to “let us know how the new policy will impact your life.”
Most of the supporters’ 110+ comments supported Obama policy, and many were critical of the Catholic church.
But several supporters were critical of Obama’s decision.
“The Catholic Faith does not agree with contraception. People practicing their faith see this as government interfering in religion, not cool, be careful,” said a comment posted by Supemom2.
“Do I wish the Church took a different stand on this [contraception] issue–you bet,” said another supporter named Meagen Ryan. “But it doesn’t, I respect that, and I think the government should, too.”
“I voted and campaigned for you in 2008… You are no better than a Republican and I guess I’ll just have to write in ‘We’re screwed’ on the ballot,” said one poster named Dana Wheeler-Garcia.
“I am Catholic and a huge Obama supporter [but] I think that President Obama should re-think his decision to not exempt religious organizations, schools, and hospitals from the requirement of providing contraception,” wrote brushdrtrouble. “Obama should try to reach a compromise… I am concerned that this decision will turn off religious voters in the Fall,” he wrote.
“Right now, the oppressed and minority are Catholics, who are being refused the right to dissent or have any say in this matter,” said another supporter, named Peter Johnson. “It almost seems directly anti-religion, and unnecessarily so as to please the far, far, far, far left,” said Johnson.
However, most of the comments supported the president’s decision.
Lack of contraception causes many additional births, and the “cost of those births, and the potential gross saving from helping women to avert them, is estimated at $11.1 billion,” said one supporter, Patsouthernliberal.
“Religiously affiliated hospitals want to hold out their greedy little hands when it comes to accepting public funds such as medicare and medicaid …when you serve the public, you have to play by the public’s rules,” wrote ProudLiberal65.
Obama’s attempted push-back follows two weeks of controversy, during which numerous Catholic clerics and liberal Democrats spoke against the directive.
White House press secretary Jay Carney even had to deal with a series of questions from skeptical reporters.
Republican leaders, including GOP rivals former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, quickly rallied against Obamas decision.
Progressives “are now using Obamacare to impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away… What the Obama administration has done is indefensible,” Romney said in a Feb. 3 article.
“President Obama just may have lost the election,” wrote Peggy Noonan, a columnist at the Wall Street Journal. “There was no reason to pick this fight. It reflects political incompetence on a scale so great as to make Mitt Romney’s gaffes a little bitty thing… there was nothing for the president to gain, except, perhaps, the pleasure of making a great church bow to him,” she wrote.
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