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The contraception mandate: An oaf's half loaf

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Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012

President Barack Obama, a self-professed "constitutional scholar," proved yet again Friday that he's a constitutional dunce.

Under fire for a baldfaced frontal assault on First Amendment religious freedoms that would have, with few exceptions, required religiously affiliated institutions to provide free birth control for their employees, the president announced a special "accommodation."

Such institutions -- hospitals, universities and charities, etc. -- now will be allowed to opt-out of the mandate. But their employees' health insurance companies will be required to provide free birth control.

It's pretty much a distinction without a difference, considering it's the religiously affiliated institutions that pay the insurance premiums and, now, with the revised rule, probably higher premiums.

As Horace Cooper, a real constitutional law scholar, put it, "(E)ven this exemption fails to accept that the government may not force citizens to choose between their faith or obeying the law regardless of where they work or who they employ."

Circumscribing the free exercise of religion -- directly or by proxy, as the "accommodation" makes it -- is patently unconstitutional. Or as Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights reminds, "When it comes to the First Amendment, there is no such thing as half a loaf."

But there is such a thing as a constitutional oaf . And that's Barack Obama.

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