WEDGE politics typically involves using an issue to divide your opponent from potential supporters. President Obama has flipped the practice on its head. He's using wedge politics on his own supporters.
Nowhere is that more apparent than the controversy over the administration's mandate for all employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control and abortifacients, including most religious organizations. That action has led Roman Catholic leaders to file lawsuits decrying the mandate as an infringement upon religious liberty.
For many Americans, the idea that government can force citizens to violate their religious beliefs strikes at the core of our national identity. Our country's earliest settlers included many escaping religious persecution, and our founding documents stress the right to practice one's religion without government interference.
The issue is not whether you agree with the Catholic Church's teachings on birth control; the issue is whether people of Catholic or other faiths should be forced to violate deeply held religious beliefs, particularly when the practice of those beliefs poses no harm to anyone else. The clear threat to religious liberty is why local officials with Oklahoma Christian University and Southern Nazarene University have both voiced objections to the mandate, as have many evangelicals nationally.
This is a fight the Obama administration should have avoided. The Catholic Church has long partnered with and supported government programs to aid the poor. While evangelicals have trended strongly Republican in recent decades, Catholics remained a Democrat-friendly corner of the religious world. That may be changing because of the administration's actions.
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