President Obama is not “Waging War on Religion”


Posted by Nathan Diament

Earlier today, the Orthodox Union filed our formal comments with the Department of Health & Human Services on the proposed regulations relating to the “HHS mandate” to employers to provide women’s health care services (including contraceptives and sterilization…) in employer-sponsored health plans.  As we noted in our accompanying press release, our deepest concern is… the notion that the federal government will create two tiers of religious organizations with each receiving different apportionments of religious liberty protection.

As we also noted, this issue was among those we raised with President Obama in our meeting with him at The White House on June 5.  It is important to further note that in responding to us, President Obama clearly and thoughtfully conveyed his full appreciation, and respect, for our concern as well as his deep commitment to the principles of religious liberty and the positive role religious institutions play in American society.  In no way, did we get any sense of hostility toward religion and religious institutions that would align with the charge leveled by some critics that the President is “waging a war on religion.”

We disagree with the President on this issue, as do many other people of good will.  But we disagree with mutual respect and a recognition that the President’s motives, as he stated them forthrightly to us, are honorable – in service of respecting religious liberty while pursuing his policy goal of broader access for women to certain healthcare services.  The President drew the line as he did – trying to balance these competing interests and values in a certain way.  We disagree with how he chose to strike the balance, and we are urging him to revise it.  (He can find other ways to expand women’s access to these services without implicating religious liberty issues.)  But we do so valuing President Obama’s perspective.  This is how debates on weighty issues must be conducted.