Motley Crew of Moderate Conservatives Starts a New Super Team for Religious Freedom

Moderate, has-been Republicans like former presidential advisor and serpent-bride Mary Matalin, former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, former (Democratic) Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, and former VA Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson have joined forces to turn the tide of conservative crazy-talk and restore some much-need perspective to the Republican party. Just kidding! They're forming an advocacy group aimed at exempting religious organizations from providing federally mandated contraception coverage.

The new organization, Conscience Cause is, according to a statement the group shared with Politco, geared to "stopping the implementation of a Department of Health and Human Services regulation which would compel people and organizations to pay for drugs and services that violate their faith." Matlin, however, insisted that the group wouldn't become an instrument of partisan politics, that its main objective would be to re-emphasize the idea of religious freedom in the continuing debate over whether the government should tell free-loading religious organizations that don't pay taxes to pay for things like contraception in employee insurance policies. Said Matlin,

I love the Church, I love the Constitution. This is at the crossroads. Voters, when they think through this, will understand what it's about. It is absolutely not about contraception, which there is not a problem. And this group – I want to make this clear – does not have a uniform view of contraception.

Not that many Republicans would publicly voice support for contraception — they simply don't share a "uniform view," which is about as close as individual Republicans get these days to saying that they think the GOP has curdled like a carton of chocolate milk forgotten for weeks in the bottom of a child's backpack.

The religious freedom card, though, has been somewhat overplayed, since the original federal contraception mandate exempted places of worship, which meant that if you were the janitor who cleaned up the Communion wafers worshipers spit out on their way back to their pews, then your contraception wouldn't be covered under your healthcare plan. Other organizations, however, such as schools and charities — organizations that, where the Catholic Church is especially concerned, employ a ton of non-believers — would have no choice but to pony up some pill money. The federal mandate, moreover, had plenty of precedents at the state level, precedents that the Catholic Church has become particularly adept at avoiding.

Maybe, if religious organizations want the ability to dictate the terms of their participation in government policy, they should pay any number of taxes that they're exempt from as per current law, which treats religious groups as sovereigns that can't be interfered with (hence the no tax thing). Though this means that the contraception mandate technically infringes on church sovereignty, we live in a world where Catholic schoolchildren aren't taught exclusively by priests and nuns — they're taught by lay people who may or may not believe such and such about Jesus Christ, Superstar.

Center-right leaders, Bush alums for religious conscience group [Politico]