What war on religion?
Stephanie Mencimer writes in Mother Jones:
For months, Catholic religious leaders have waged a PR campaign criticizing the Obama administration for allegedly infringing on their religious liberties. They’ve blasted, among other things, an administration requirement (since rescinded) that institutions affiliated with religious organizations offer contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans. Religious conservatives are also fuming that the administration declined to renew a contract with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to provide services for human trafficking victims because the group refused to provide referrals for contraception and abortion to sexual assault victims.
Gary Marx, the executive director of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, sent out a fundraising letter this month urging people to sign a petition fighting Obama’s “war on religion,” writing: “The Obama Administration’s actions are evidence of a pattern of hostility towards religious institutions and an antipathy to uphold and protect the nation’s most fundamental founding principles.”
Republican members of Congress have joined the chorus, accusing the Obama administration of trampling religious freedoms. On Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will hold a hearing on precisely this topic. Among those testifying will be Rev. William Lori, chairman of the USCCB ad hoc committee on religious liberty, the group leading the charge against Obama’s contraceptive mandate.
But all the outrage about religious freedom has overshadowed a basic truth about the Obama administration: When it comes to religious organizations and their treatment by the federal government, the Obama administration has been extremely generous. Religious groups have benefited handsomely from Obama’s stimulus package, budgets, and other policies. Under Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, according to a spokeswoman from the US Department of Health and Human Services, where much of the funding comes from. The USCCB, which has been such a vocal critic of the Obama administration, has seen its share of federal grants from HHS jump from $71.8 million in the last three years of the Bush administration to $81.2 million during the first three years of Obama. In fiscal 2011 alone, the group received a record $31.4 million from the administration it believes is virulently anti-Catholic, according to HHS data.