Obama decides to “accommodate” the Constitution

by Ryan Streeter on February 10, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Unbelievable. The Obama administration’s decision to “compromise” on its recent rule requiring religious groups to buy health insurance in violation of conscience only makes the administration look worse.

First it was “balance.” Remember that’s how Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described the January 20th rule, which was allegedly “balancing” religious freedom with the goal of access to preventative services.  Obama press secretary Jay Carney reiterated the language. Forget the Oath of Office and all that. It’s not the Constitution we care about; it’s “balancing” it with things we really want to do that matters.

Today, under the embarrassing backlash from the Catholic Church, liberal Catholic commentators, and even Rick Warren (who gave the invocation at Obama’s inauguration), the Obama team had the bright idea to pretend to change the original rule without really changing it, hoping the American people are as ignorant as everyone in the White House knows they are and thus unlikely to notice.

The modified rule, as Yuval Levin points out, does nothing materially different than the original rule. It requires religious groups to choose between providing their employees with insurance that violates conscience or denying their employees coverage and paying a fine as a result.

Here’s how the White House decided to blog its announcement today:

Today, President Obama announced a policy that will accommodate religious freedom while making sure that women have access to preventive health care, including contraception, at no additional cost, no matter where they work.

Two things immediately jump out:

(1) The President, who takes an oath of office to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” has decided today he will “accommodate” the Constitution. Not sure if anyone in the counsel’s office there in the White House noticed, but the first part of the Bill of Rights, otherwise known as the First Amendment, protects religious liberty and is backed by a long and sophisticated case law. You don’t “accommodate religious freedom.” You preserve, protect, and defend it. It’s part of the Constitution.

(2) The “no matter where they work” is an obvious allusion to faith-based organizations. This is basically a way of saying: okay you whiners, we’ll change the wording and force you to pay for the services anyway.

There’s a saying, “The harder you try, the dumber you look.” That fits the Obama team right about now. Their “accommodation” is worse than the original rule in that it changes nothing materially, and it makes them look even more cynical in the process.