At first blush, the Obama administration's heels-dug-in posture of not allowing a religious exemption to the requirement for insurance to cover contraceptives and abortifacients seems like a political mistake. But I wonder if there's a grand plan here?
First, a quick overview of the arguments on both sides. Catholics and conservatives say that this is an attack on religious freedom. Liberals say that Catholics are hypocritical to object since some large percent of them use contraceptives anyway (I've heard 50% and I've heard 98%, but I will argue that the actual number makes no difference). The liberal argument is incorrect on two grounds. First, it isn't hypocritical. Many Catholics drink alcohol. That doesn't mean the State should force the Catholic Church to buy it for them. Second, even if it were hypocritical, that wouldn't argue in favor of the requirement. Liberals often use "hypocrisy" as a brickbat to attack principled arguments. But merely because a person has a gambling problem doesn't mean he's wrong to oppose gambling.
Conservatives are, I think, in the right here. It gets worse when you consider that the Obama administration has already granted over a thousand waivers to other PPACA requirements. They are meant to show that the law is "flexible". Not, apparently, in this case.
There may be method to the madness, though. If the administration continues to be uncompromising, the result will probably be that the Catholic Church will cease to provide health insurance to its employees, and will pay a fine instead. Fast forward a few years. The next step the liberals will take is to continue the push to a single-payer system, and then they will tout the current crisis as a point in their favor! Look, they'll say, this whole thing could have been avoided if we had a single-payer system. The Church wouldn't have any objection, no one would have lost insurance coverage, and everyone would have been happy.
Of course, there still would be a loss of religious liberty. Catholics would still be paying for contraceptives and abortions, via their tax dollars instead of their tithes.