Politics
President Barack Obama talks about Ukraine while in the press briefing room at the White House in Washington, July 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing) President Barack Obama talks about Ukraine while in the press briefing room at the White House in Washington, July 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)  

Obama Forces Religious Groups To Pick Faith Or Funding

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama is replaying his turnout-boosting 2012 contraception fight against Christian groups by staging a pre-election fight between Christian groups and advocates of new legal rights for gays.

He’s expected to sign a regulation on July 21 that would force religious groups that get federal contracts to give up federal funding if they don’t submit to progressives’ claim that homosexuality and heterosexuality are morally equivalent.

The regulation ensures a fight by banning federal contracts for groups that are reluctant to hire gay, lesbian and transgender people. But many religious group prefer to hire people whose personal lives exemplify the groups’ beliefs about proper relations between men and women.

The regulation doesn’t apply to companies and non-profits that don’t accept government contracts.

The pending regulation was announced in The New York Times.

Gay and lesbian groups cheered the decision, but many religious groups will contest the regulation as a violation of the constitution’s “wall of separation” that protects religious groups from government dictates.

But that’s a fight Obama wants, because it creates a media-magnified emotional conflict that will help spur midterm turnout by gays, lesbians and progressives, and will likely cause a spike in donations from wealthy gays.

Gays and lesbians comprise less than 3 percent of the population, but usually provide roughly 4 percent of voters. More than three in four vote Democratic.

“We are elated at the announcement by the White House that on Monday the President will sign an Executive Order barring discrimination in employment by federal contractors,” said Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian rights. “For far too long, LGBT employees have been subject to open bigotry and negative job actions based on factors that have nothing to do with our ability to do the job.”

Obama’s regulation imposes a tough choice on religious groups.

Many religious groups, such as Catholic Charities, seek and accept federal funding because it helps them carry out charitable missions that exemplify their religion and are also sought by government.

Unless they abandon their religious beliefs relating to men and women, the family and sex, they be forced to give up federal funding.

Those efforts include activities such as arranging adoptions, running food kitchens and helping illegal immigrants settle in the United States.

Obama will sign the regulation despite a protest campaign by centrist and left-of-center religious groups, according to the New York Times.

The protesting clerics included Rev. Larry Snyder, the chief executive of Catholic Charities, Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church — who Obama invited to speak at his 2009 inauguration, and Stephan Bauman, president of World Relief, an evangelical charity.

That campaign was countered by a progressive coalition that denounced any exemption for religious groups.

Once Obama signs the regulation July 21, the religious groups likely will sue in courts for a reversal.

They’ll sue because an existing law — the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act — bars regulators from imposing unnecessary burdens on religious groups.

Obama created a similar fight in the run-up to the 2012 election.

He directed his Obamacare deputies to issue a regulation that forced churches to provide most of their employees with health insurance covering abortion-related services.

That was anathema to Catholic employers, who didn’t want to get involved in funding abortion services.

The resulting fight helped Obama win the November election, because the fight helped boost support among single women.

On June 30, the religious groups won a temporary victory, when the Supreme Court voted 9 to 0 to strike down regulations that contradicted the religious beliefs of a company’s owners. The court ruled that the regulations contradicted the law, because there are less-burdensome ways to achieve the goals sought by regulators.

The court’s decision, however, said the regulators could try to find an alternative regulation that would accomplish their goal of ensuring that nearly all employees of religious groups receive health-related insurance covering abortion-related services.

The Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores decision, however, was met by howls of protest from progressive groups, who claimed it would allow corporations to ignore federal laws.

But that’s good for the White House, because it is likely to stoke Democratic donations and turnout during the next few months.

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