The Obama administration is attempting to tell religious groups what their conscience means. And in some courts, the attempt is working.
On Tuesday the Tenth Circuit court joined five other federal appeals courts in ruling that religious groups, such as Christian colleges from Oklahoma and the Little Sisters of the Poor, must comply with rules implementing Obamacare's abortion pill and contraception mandate.
And just last week the Obama administration published final rules imposing the same regime on religious family businesses.
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All this may sound strange after the Supreme Court's decision one year ago in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga cases. Didn't the court say religious objectors don't have to put early abortion pills in their health insurance?
How can nuns or colleges lose when family businesses already won? And how can executive branch bureaucrats defy a Supreme Court ruling?
Government workers are once again behind this Obamacare contradiction. They took a Supreme Court ruling that prohibited forcing people to violate their faith and essentially just re-described what they were doing. Instead of withdrawing the mandate, they relabeled it.
Under new rules issued last August and finalized last week, the government simply declared by fiat that even though the abortion pills still flow through the same health plans and same insurance companies secured by the colleges and sisters, somehow those religious groups are not really involved.
The Supreme Court told the Obama administration not to infringe on faith, so the Obama administration responded by redefining faith's own boundaries. It's a gargantuan yet adolescent game of "I'm not touching you!"
But while in court the government insists that the religious groups are "separate" from the abortion pill and contraceptive coverage they object to, rule-making and press releases make pains to declare that the birth control coverage goes to women in an utterly "seamless" way.
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The "war on women" crowd inside and outside the administration demand that women don't just get free birth control, but that they get it "seamlessly" from their other coverage. But that other coverage is directly provided by other citizens, including religious families and non-profit organizations. If there is no seam in the coverage, there is no separation from the religious employers.
Yet the government walks into court and says the abortion pill coverage is totally disconnected from the nuns and colleges who object.
We've heard this before with Obamacare. It's definitely a tax, and completely not a tax. It's plainly a state exchange, but it's clearly just a federal exchange. Abortion pills flow through religious people's coverage, and they're totally separate.
Unfortunately, several judges have bought into this shell game. They have had a hard time seeing the larger issue: People of faith are forced one way or another to participate in health insurance, an industry that Obamacare swallowed whole.
Telling religious believers that the coverage of abortifacients — or, soon enough, third-trimester abortion or assisted suicide — is being done by "someone else" is no answer to the consciences of believers who are also described as "seamless" providers. We are all government agents now.
Matt Bowman is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom and its Center for Life in Washington, D.C. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.