Bad-idea Fights to Pick
I am currently between jobs, starting the new one mid-February, and so have been watching an unhealthy amount of TV. Ever since the White house decided that all non-ministerial religious organizations (charities, universities, hospitals, etc.) have to provide birth control as part of their health insurance, social conservatives have been freaking out about this. They’re portraying this as an attack on religious freedom. This just seems like a poor fight to pick for social conservatives…the fact is that birth control is popular and nearly universally used, and I would be shocked if Republicans actually gained any voters by publicly coming out hard against birth control. It seems far more likely to alienate moderates.
Two other thoughts: the first is that I do understand that contraceptives are a sin in Catholic doctrine, but I am curious about the theological grounding of the Church’s position on this. Many of these employees (ministries are exempted, remember) are non-Catholic – is there a Catholic mandate to deny contraceptive access to non-Catholics? Furthermore, if the objection is funding contraception, the Church is obviously funding contraception now, with it’s employees’ wages rather than their insurance. Maybe it’s purely an out-of-sight-out-of-mind matter, which does seem oddly legalistic and narrow…but isn’t that the best kind of theology?
Second thought: this controversy has coincided with a resurgence of social issues in the Republican race and the recent successes of Rick Santorum. The prospect of Santorum beating Romney seems unlikely still, but one certain effect of this controversy is to force Mitt Romney to pander to the crazy-social-conservative vote on the issue. The odds of Mitt saying something incredibly alienating are rising by the day, which will be replayed endlessly all fall. For those who believe Obama is a political master playing 11-dimensional chess, this act is compatible with the theory.*
*: Assuming Obama handles the coming battle competently.