Fox figures have suggested that President Obama is anti-Catholic or anti-religion following the administration's recent decision requiring church-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance plans that cover contraceptives for women. But polling has shown that a majority of Catholics have said that insurance policies should cover contraceptives; moreover, the Obama administration has repeatedly engaged the faith-based community -- including Catholic leaders -- and has directed millions in funding to religious groups. This follow's Fox's long history of portraying Obama as hostile toward religion.
Obama Admin. Reaffirms Health Care Insurers Must Cover Contraception
NYT: "Obama Reaffirms Insurers Must Cover Contraception." From a January 20 article in The New York Times:
The Obama administration said Friday that most health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women free of charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities.
Federal officials said they would give such church-affiliated organizations one additional year -- until Aug. 1, 2013 -- to comply with the requirement. Most other employers and insurers must comply by this Aug. 1.
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church had personally appealed to President Obama to grant the broad exemption. He made the final decision on the issue after hearing from them, as well as from family planning advocates, scientific experts and members of Congress, administration officials said.
The rule takes a big step to remove cost as a barrier to birth control, a longtime goal of advocates for women's rights and experts on women's health.
Catholic bishops issued a statement saying they would fight the "edict" from the government.
"In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences," said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The rule includes an exemption for certain "religious employers," including houses of worship. But church groups said the exemption was so narrow that it was almost meaningless. A religious employer cannot qualify for the exemption if it employs or serves large numbers of people of a different faith, as many Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies do.
The 2010 health care law says insurers must cover "preventive health services" and cannot charge for them.
The new rule interprets this mandate. It requires coverage of the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Among the drugs and devices that must be covered are emergency contraceptives including pills known as ella and Plan B. The rule also requires coverage of sterilization procedures for women without co-payments or deductibles. [The New York Times, 1/20/12]
Fox Reacts To Ruling By Painting Obama As Anti-Catholic
Fox Panelists Use Contraception Regulation To Advance Obama Anti-Catholic Smear. On the January 25 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money, host Eric Bolling and a panel of guests attacked Obama over the regulation. Radio host Doug Giles said, "Well, here's where goofy Christians who voted for Obama ... [now] get fish slapped with the reality of what it means when his policies are implemented." Radio host Lars Larson said the regulation is "stealing people's individual liberties." [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 1/25/12, via Media Matters]
Doocy: With Birth Control Rules, "Is [Obama] Provoking An Unnecessary War With America's Religious Leaders?" On the January 25 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy teased an upcoming segment about the birth control regulation by saying: "The president orders religious institutions to cover birth control in their health plans. Is he provoking an unnecessary war with America's religious leaders? Up next, the bishop leading the plan to fight back against President Obama." On-screen text beneath footage of Obama read, "Religious war." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/25/12, via Media Matters]
Fox's Guilfoyle: Contraception Regulation Part Of Obama's Alleged "War Against Religion" And "War Against The Catholic Church." During the January 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that the contraception regulation was part of Obama's "war against religion" and "war against the Catholic Church." From the broadcast:
BILL O'REILLY (host): Catholic Church --
O'REILLY: Obama administration --
O'REILLY: What's the beef?
GUILFOYLE: Well, this part of the whole allegation of the war against religion, the war against the Catholic Church. This has the U.S. Bishops, the Cardinals, the Vatican very upset about this. They have been battling with the Obama administration over this specific rule. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/24/11, via Media Matters]
Johnson: "Why is President Obama Picking On [Catholics] This Way?" Discussing the ruling on the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. claimed that Catholics might ask, "Why is President Obama picking on us in this way?" From the broadcast:
DOOCY: OK, so the Catholic Church is being told you got to provide contraceptives, sterilization, and Plan B.
JOHNSON: Yeah, President Obama, after meeting with the bishops and after speaking allegedly with Cardinal Designate [Timothy] Dolan, the new cardinal from New York, has said that the federal government is going to demand that Catholic universities, Catholic social service agencies, Catholic institutions other than churches provide drugs that induce abortions, provide sterilizations, provide contraceptions free, really in violation of Catholic faith and, really, other organizations and other religious organizations, it violates their faiths. Some orthodox Jewish organizations, some evangelical groups have also objected. ... So on one hand, you're saying, well, can we keep faith but can we keep adherence of the law, and you're asking us to choose.
DOOCY: You can't do both.
JOHNSON: Well, it's a violation of the United States Constitution, and there will be a whole raft of lawsuits based on this incursion. And in an election year, a lot of Catholic voters are going to say why is the federal government doing this to us? Why is President Obama picking on us in this way? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/23/12]
Fox's Tantaros: The Obama Administration Has Been "Beating Up On Catholics For A Long Time." During the January 9 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros claimed that the Obama administration has been "beating up on Catholics for a long time." After a clip of presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaking at a debate was aired, co-host Jon Scott said:
SCOTT: Newt Gingrich winning a lot of applause there. The question that we didn't hear was George Stephanopoulos, Andrea, asking whether the state should be allowed to ban contraceptives. What do you think about that whole issue?
TANTAROS: Well, first of all, the fact that the head of the Clinton attack machine, George Stephanopoulos, is moderating a GOP debate, to me seems ridiculous. And this question about contraception, this is the new media "gotcha" question, right? They're bombarding Rick Santorum with this question, and I would encourage the GOP not to take the debate on this one. The Supreme Court already ruled on this in Griswold v. Connecticut. They said that states can't do this. And that's what the candidates should say.
Really, George Stephanopoulos asking about contraception when we still have high unemployment -- it's absolutely ridiculous. And the point about the Obama administration -- they have been cutting services to the Catholic Church and have been beating up on Catholics for a long time. The Catholic Church does a lot of good behind the scenes. They do a lot of good out there on the streets, and they have cut funding, just because they don't agree with their beliefs, some of those beliefs, which I would point out, the administration espouses itself, like gay marriage. [Fox News, Happening Now, 1/9/12, via Media Matters]
But Contrary To Suggestion That Ruling Is Anti-Catholic, Poll Shows Catholics Support Insurance Coverage For Contraception
Catholics For Choice Poll Found "63 Percent Of American Catholics" Said Insurance Policies Should Cover "Contraception, Such As Birth Control Pills." According to a 2009 poll conducted for Catholics for Choice, 63 percent of American Catholics said that "health insurance policies -- whether they are private or government -- should cover ... contraception, such as birth control pills."
[Belden Russonello & Stewart, September 2009]
And Several Catholic Groups Found "Silver Lining" In HHS Ruling
Catholic United's Executive Director: "There Is A Silver Lining In Today's Ruling. Increased Access To Contraceptive Services Will Dramatically Reduce The Abortion Rate In America." James Salt, executive director of the group Catholics United, issued this statement in response to the contraception ruling:
Although we recognize the authority of Catholic teaching on the issue of contraception, we also acknowledge that there is a silver lining in today's ruling. Increased access to contraceptive services will dramatically reduce the abortion rate in America. Reducing abortion should be a goal recognized by both sides of this highly polarized debate. Furthermore, we look forward to working with the administration in finding a win-win solution that will both meet the medical needs of women while protecting the religious liberty of Catholic institutions. [Catholics United, 1/20/12]
Catholic Democrats President Whelan: "These New Regulations ... Will Certainly Help Reduce The Number Of Unintended Pregnancies" And "Decrease The Incidence Of Abortion." Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats, issued a statement on the HHS ruling that noted, "These new regulations, providing for greater access to contraception, will certainly help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies across the country, and correspondingly are likely to further decrease the incidence of abortion." From Whelan's statement:
As a physician and pediatric specialist, I know that news of the HHS regulations today means that more women will have access to the kind of health care that has been denied to millions over the years because of the high cost. Over 50% of girls and women who use contraceptives take them for reasons other than the prevention of pregnancy. Since the beginning of his first presidential campaign in 2007, President Obama has emphasized the importance of preventing unintended pregnancy as the most moral approach to solving the abortion problem. These new regulations, providing for greater access to contraception, will certainly help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies across the country, and correspondingly are likely to further decrease the incidence of abortion.
It's well-established that over 50% of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. Along with other measures incorporated into the Affordable Care Act, these new regulations are part of a concerted effort to support women and to help them avoid unintended pregnancy. Our study of expanded healthcare access in Massachusetts after 2006, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2010, showed that access to healthcare (and contraception) is associated with a significant further reduction in the rate of abortions.
President Obama has grappled with the deep moral dimensions of these important questions, and I think his determination to help decrease unintended pregnancies is among the chief reasons that he supported these new HHS regulations. Having interviewed Catholic priests who worked with President Obama as a community organizer, funded by the US Bishops' Campaign for Human Development, I know the President cares deeply about Catholic sensibilities. This Administration has expanded faith-based initiatives through its White House Office of Faith Based and Community Partnerships, and has provided record funding for Catholic efforts such as Catholic Charities -- over $500 million in 2010.
As a Catholic, I am aware that some Catholics will hear this news with mixed or negative emotions, including many bishops. At the same time, we know Catholic women, and by extension their families, use oral contraception at the same rate as the overall population. For over half a century, since the issuance of Humanae Vitae, Catholics and Catholic theologians have taken issue with the Church's teaching on birth control.
It is our hope that both the Administration and the U.S. Bishops' Conference can come together over the next 18 months to develop policies-perhaps following the "Hawaii model"-- that better address the conscience rights of religious institutions while allowing women access to contraceptives without cost. Ultimately, the HHS regulations put the decision of whether or not to use contraceptives at the discretion of each individual woman and her informed conscience, and this is the ultimate test of religious liberty and the protection of conscience. [Catholic Democrats, accessed 1/26/12]
Fox Has Previously Portrayed Obama And His Administration As Anti-Religion And Anti-Christian
Fox Hyped Perry Ad Accusing Obama Of Waging A "War On Religion." After former GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry released a television ad in December promising to "end Obama's war on religion," Fox News figures hyped the ad. Host Bill O'Reilly said during his Fox News show that Perry's "Hail Mary" ad was "a smart move," while co-host Bill Hemmer said on America's Newsroom that "some would say" Perry's ad is "powerful." During a broadcast of Hannity, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson said, while discussing the Perry ad, that the Obama administration doesn't "hate religion. They hate traditional Christianity." [Media Matters, 12/12/11]
Fox News Contributor Used Artificial "Christmas Tree Tax" Outrage To Imply Obama Was Displaying "Contempt For Christianity." In a November 12, 2011, column on Newsmax.com, Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce used outrage over an alleged "Christmas tree tax" to claim that Obama was displaying "contempt for Christianity" by levying a tax on Christians that she said was rooted in Muslim tradition.
- In Fact, "Christmas Tree Tax" Was Fictional -- Fee Was Approved By Tree Industry. In fact, the "Christmas tree tax" was invented by right-wing media; the $.15 cent "checkoff fee" had long been sought by the Christmas tree industry, who wanted use the fees to fund an advertising campaign for the industry. [Media Matters, 11/11/11, 11/9/11]
Fox Launched Attack On Obama's Lack Of Easter Proclamation. Fox News figures, as well as Fox Nation, attacked Obama in April 2011 for not issuing a presidential proclamation about Easter. On Hannity, Nancy Pfotenhauer, a Republican strategist, called it "a mistake ... it leaves people thinking that he is either hostile or indifferent."
- In Fact, Presidents Have Not Issued Proclamations About Easter For Over 30 Years, And Obama Hosted Easter Prayer Breakfast And Easter Egg Roll. In fact, presidents have not released proclamations about Easter since 1980, and Obama hosted the first-ever Easter Prayer Breakfast as well as the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. [Media Matters, 4/26/11, 4/26/11]
Gretchen Carlson: "Some People" Say Obama Discussing God "Was Disingenuous Coming From A President Who Does Not Go To Church On A Regular Basis." On the June 16, 2010, edition of Fox & Friends, after airing a video clip of Obama invoking God during his speech on the BP oil spill, co-host Gretchen Carlson said, "Did you find it at all disingenuous -- because some people are analyzing that this morning and saying it was disingenuous coming from a president who does not go to church on a regular basis." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/16/10]
On Fox, S.E. Cupp Claimed "Liberal Media" Has A "Comrade" In The WH To "Back Up Their Secular Agenda." The April 28, 2010, edition of Fox News' Hannity featured a segment that claimed to show, as on-screen text read, "the liberal media's bias against Christianity." Conservative commentator and radio show host S.E. Cupp said: "It's the first time [the media] have had a comrade and ally in the White House to back up their secular agenda. This is a guy who is very uncomfortable with public worship. He's always elevating atheism to the level of Christianity and Judaism and Islam." [Fox News, Hannity, 4/28/10]
But Obama Administration Has Engaged Faith-Based Communities And Directed Millions In Stimulus Funds To Religious Groups
Obama Administration Established The First Advisory Council On Faith-Based And Neighborhood Partnerships. Obama established the White House's first Advisory Council On Faith-Based And Neighborhood Partnerships. The council is comprised of 25 religious and secular leaders, including seven leaders from Catholic organizations. In a March 2010 report, the advisory council issued 64 recommendations "for changes in policies, programs, and practices that affect the delivery of services by" faith-based and neighborhood organizations. [White House, accessed 1/26/12; Advisory Council report, March 2010]
Obama Hosted First Ever Easter Prayer Breakfast And Made Tradition Annual. In April 2010, Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast for "Christian leaders from across the country." He hosted the breakfast again in April 2011; as a blog post on the Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) site noted:
Today President Obama welcomed a room full, an East Room full, to be exact, of Christian leaders for an Easter Prayer Breakfast.
The tradition began last year, when President Obama hosted the very first breakfast of this kind at the White House.
"I'm going to make it annual, why not?" Obama said, smiling. "The Easter Egg Roll, that's well established."
Obama Administration Defended National Day Of Prayer In Court. In April 2010, a U.S. District judge in Wisconsin ruled that the annual National Day of Prayer, established in 1952, was unconstitutional. The Obama administration appealed the decision, and in April 2011, a federal appeals court overturned the ruling. Describing the Obama administration's decision to appeal the decision, CBN News chief political correspondent David Brody wrote in an April 2010 post on CBN's website:
The Obama administration is appealing the ruling by a federal judge that decided the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.
You can read the Department of Justice notice to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals below but let's be very clear here. President Obama is a defendant in this case. Hey, conservative Christians how does that grab ya?
Look, let me ask you a question. Is there going to be any conservative Christian leader and/or group that applaud the president here? I mean this administration DID NOT HAVE to appeal this decision. You can make the argument that it's a no-brainer to appeal it but it wasn't a given. And let me just add that my guess is many conservative Christians probably were skeptical that the administration would appeal it in the first place. So many of his critics are out to get this President on the faith issue. You would think when he steps to the plate and does the "right thing" in their eyes they would give him kudos. Not that the President needs kudos from his critics but if the kudos are not forthcoming it may speak to the hypocrisy issue a little bit yes?
Look, either way the bottom line is this: Barack Obama, the President of the United States is defending prayer in the federal court system. That bit of news should not be lost on anyone. Will the press releases commending the administration for doing so follow? I would suspect that if George Bush was President the releases would be flowing. Conservative Christians may not see eye to eye with the President on many issues but isn't holding hands on this appropriate? [CBN.com, 4/22/10]
Recovery Act Directed Millions Of Dollars To Faith-Based Groups. In a December 2010 article headlined, "Obama's stimulus pours millions into faith-based groups," Politico found in an analysis of Recovery Act spending that "at least $140 million in stimulus money has gone to faith-based groups, the result of an unpublicized White House decision to spend government money, where legal, supporting religiously inspired nonprofit groups." Politico further reported:
In an aggressive attempt at outreach, federal agencies, in conference calls and online seminars, instructed faith-based groups on how to apply for the grants, and federal officials sometimes stepped in when the state officials who distribute the money were reluctant to spend it on groups associated with churches and other religious establishments.
"Part of our job is to ensure that there's a level playing field -- we don't encourage anyone to favor faith-based groups over other organizations, but we do want to ensure that there's no discrimination against faith-based organizations," said Joshua DuBois, who heads the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which Bush created and President Barack Obama renamed and expanded. [Politico, 12/3/10]
Catholic Charities President On Obama Administration's Funding Of Religious Groups: Obama "Took What President Bush Did And Has Expanded It." From the December 2010 Politico article:
Some conservative critics remain. Jim Towey, one of the heads of the faith-based office in the Bush years, told POLITICO he believed the programs would very likely favor groups that backed Obama's policies and said that with large federal programs like Head Start, even Bush had been able to direct only "a nickel on the dollar" to faith-based groups.
Other observers, though, see more continuity with Bush's program. Obama's approach to spending government money on faith-based initiatives has been "almost entirely identical" to the Bush policy, said Robert Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at The George Washington University.
Religious groups that have received federal funds -- some of which have clashed with the administration on other policy fronts -- say the stimulus package embodies the White House's understanding of their role in the social safety net.
Obama "took what President Bush did and has expanded it," said the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, whose agencies received about $50 million from the stimulus, he said.
Some of the funding to Catholic Charities came as the White House bitterly battled the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on health care reform, which the bishops said would lead to government-funded abortion and fiercely opposed, and the charity group sought to hold a middle ground between backing the bill and opposing the abortion-related measures.
Snyder, who sits on the White House's Faith Advisory Council, said that debate never spilled over. [Politico, 12/3/10]