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GOP House contraception hearing, Santorum against birth control. Democratic gifts

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WASHINGTON--Man, don't get between a woman and her contraceptives.

For the Republicans, the optics of having five men--three clerics, two religious educators lead off a Thursday House hearing on contraception insurance sends a message, one that may not help them come November when they try to woo women voters.

Add on top of that, more scrutiny of GOP White House front-runner Rick Santorum reveals his view that he believes birth control is just wrong.

House Government Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is running a hearing titled "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?"

The hook is the new insurance coverage for birth control. Under Obama, all women, no matter their employer, will get free contraception coverage starting this August. Obama on Friday--addressing concerns raised by Catholic bishops and others, revised the new rule--a result of the Obama health care plan. Under the change accepted by some Catholic leaders but not the bishops-- women who work for a religious employer--such as a hospital or non-profit--will get the benefit directly from the insurance company.

The Issa viewpoint comes across in the title of the hearing and a statement out in advance of the testimony. Said Issa, "While some Americans may not feel that government mandates forcing them to pay for contraception are an infringement on their religious beliefs, others consider it to be an assault against their freedom of conscience. A government policy that encroaches on the conscientious objections of religious groups concerns all Americans who value the protections of the First Amendment. Today, the committee will hear testimony from leaders of different faiths. They are concerned that government, under this Administration, is encroaching on their First Amendment rights.

"The Administration's actions have forced us to confront a more fundamental question about the proper role of government in our lives," Issa said.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) both objected to the hearing--and the male line-up for the kickoff panel, though two women were part of the second panel.


Said Maloney in a statement, "Of course this hearing is about rights - contraception and birth control. It's about the fact that women want to have access to basic health services family planning through their health insurance plan. But some would prevent that from happening - by using lawsuits and ballot initiatives in dozens of states to roll back the fundamental rights of women to a time when the government thought what happened in the bedroom was their business and contraceptives were illegal Tens of millions of us who are following these hearings lived through those times - and I can tell you with certainty - we will not be forced back to that dark and primitive era."

below, from

Chairman Issa Hearing Preview Statement
Americans of all faiths have a right to practice their religion free from the fear of persecution or harassment from their government. Our nation's founders believed this and enshrined religious freedom into the First Amendment to the Constitution.

While some Americans may not feel that government mandates forcing them to pay for contraception are an infringement on their religious beliefs, others consider it to be an assault against their freedom of conscience. A government policy that encroaches on the conscientious objections of religious groups concerns all Americans who value the protections of the First Amendment. Today, the committee will hear testimony from leaders of different faiths. They are concerned that government, under this Administration, is encroaching on their First Amendment rights.

The Administration's actions have forced us to confront a more fundamental question about the proper role of government in our lives.

This hearing is about basic question of religious freedom, and whether or not protection will be afforded to religious institutions who wish to follow their conscience in refusing to pay for products they find morally objectionable. I look forward to hearing from today's witnesses.


Witnesses
Panel I
The Most Reverend William E. Lori
Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgeport, CT
Chairman Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
TnT Form

The Reverend Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D.
Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy
Union University

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik
Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought
Yeshiva University
Associate Rabbi
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun

Craig Mitchell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Ethics
Chair of the Ethics Department
Associate Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Panel II
John H. Garvey
President
The Catholic University of America

Dr. William K. Thierfelder
President
Belmont Abbey College

Dr. Samuel W. "Dub" Oliver
President
East Texas Baptist University
TnT Form

Dr. Allison Dabbs Garrett
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Oklahoma Christian University

Laura Champion, M.D.
Medical Director
Calvin College Health Services

Barry W. Lynn, Esq.
Executive Director
Americans United for Separation of Church and State

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 16, 2012 12:52 PM.

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