WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Obama administration is under increasing pressure to reverse its order mandating that religious organizations cover abortion-inducing contraceptives in insurance plans, with congressional Republicans threatening legislative action and two prominent Christian leaders calling it the "greatest threat to religious freedom in our lifetime."
The rule by the Department of Health and Human Services would require all private insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including ones such as Plan B and "ella" that can block implantation and kill the embryo -- an action that pro-life groups and many Christians view as an early abortion. The HHS rule includes an exemption for most churches, but that exemption does not cover Christian colleges and schools or faith-based hospitals and social service programs. The lack of a broader exemption means that faith-based groups that pay for employees' insurance plans will be purchasing something to which they are morally opposed. Even the exemption for churches is narrow, and would not cover a church that makes outreach to the poor a major part of its ministry.
"I'd go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you?"
-- Rick Warren
The issue is being portrayed in the media as a Catholic-only issue but has ballooned into much more than that, and now has evangelical leaders involved. And with abortion-inducing drugs in the mix, it's also more than a spat about contraceptives.
HHS has given religious organizations until August 2013 to comply. Religious leaders, though, say the problem isn't timing, but compliance, and they are demanding that all religious organizations be exempt.
"I'd go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? Acts 5:29," author and pastor Rick Warren wrote on his Twitter account Feb. 7 before adding, "I'm not a Catholic but I stand in 100% solidarity with my brothers & sisters to practice their belief against govt pressure."
The controversy is perhaps the biggest divide yet between the Obama administration and religious groups, and even some leading Democrats have criticized the administration's move. It's one of the rare moments when evangelicals and Catholics across the ideological spectrum -- liberal and conservative -- have united against the administration. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., a Catholic who is liberal on many issues, said Obama had "utterly botched" the issue and had thrown "his progressive Catholic allies under the bus." Another Catholic, Vice President Joe Biden, reportedly argued for a broader religious exemption, but lost. Read More