This election season, many commentators had correctly observed that cultural conservatives were not being courted by the GOP. There was talk that a "truce" had been called in the "culture wars". Issues such as gay marriage and abortion were hardly mentioned as Republican contenders focused largely on the economy. There was a very good chance that conservative and even moderate values voters might stay home, or even vote for Obama.
Then everything changed. The Obama administration decided to force charitable ministries owned by the Catholic Church to pay for birth control - something that Catholic theology considers to be sinful. When this resulted in an uproar from Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews and even Muslims - the best Obama could do was come up with a sham "solution" in which the Church would be required to buy insurance that would not name contraception as a benefit - but which would be a benefit required by the government. The effect is that the Church still must buy something that enables someone to do something the Church considers a sin.
This is not triggered by government funding. It is not about how many Catholic women use birth control. It is not about women being deprived of birth control - not when the cost is low and there are countless places it can be had FREE. This is not even about the Catholic Church.
What this about is making it clear that the Federal government can control anything that a religious group does other that worship and religious instruction. If this requirement is ruled to be legal - then any time a religious group does anything other than worship or religious instruction, the government can control their actions EVEN IF NO GOVERNMENT MONEY IS INVOLVED. Why in the world would the administration do this? Simple: President Obama believes that the 1st Amendment protection of Religious Freedom ends at the door of the church.
This is not a great distinction if you are not religious - but if you are it's huge. Much of what Christians and other religious groups do is directly required by their faith. The Obama administration's other "out" - limiting charitable work to members of the churches own faith - requires Christians to violate their own faith. Gal. 6:10 commands all Christians to "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Christians should not have to edit the first half of that verse out because that is what government wants us to do.
If this stands, what else could government do?
Religiously based and funded adoption agencies and orphanages could be required to service gay and unmarried couples - regardless of their deeply held religious beliefs.
Religiously based, chartered and funded hospitals could be required to preform abortions and sex change operations.
Religiously based homeless shelters could be required to provide "couples housing" to unmarried and gay couples.
Religious schools could be required to teach anything the government wants them to teach, and refrain from teaching anything they don't want the students taught - or to limit enrollment to children who are official members of the sponsoring church.
The list is endless - and remember, there is no requirement that government money be involved in any way.
If this all sounds extreme, think for a moment about the administration's position: "If the activity is not worship or religious instruction AND anyone outside of that faith community is served - then you forfeit your 1st Amendment religious protections." That means that you have to do whatever a completely secular organization has to do - and we (the government) are the people who decide what that is.
The really frightening thing is that there are a huge number of people on the left who are completely fine with that. They do not see any problem at all. They believe that outside of the church or synagogue or mosque - religious freedom really doesn't exist.
Ironically, this is exactly the same position most Communist governments took. The very first thing they did was to forbid them from doing any charitable work - and force them to limit their activities to the four walls of the church.
President Obama has taken the gloves off and made his intentions very clear. What he doesn't realize is that he has awakened many religious people who would never take a stand against gay marriage or abortion. Many are moderates or even liberals. (Even V.P. Biden has made it clear that he thinks this is wrong - or at least that he thinks this is a very bad idea.) These people just want their church to be left alone to do its' privately funded good works. It has now been made clear to them that this is not acceptable.
So, not only has the president awakened the proverbial sleeping dog - he has done so with an issue upon which he cannot win. The truce is over and Obama fired the first shot.