How Republicans Surrendered the War of Religion


With that word, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi gleefully delivered a fatal blow to her Republican colleagues who had launched a major political battle against the contraception mandate issued by President Obama’s  Department of Health and Human Services.

Pelosi was referring to her Republican colleagues who held a congressional hearing earlier that day to discuss the controversial mandate’s impact on religious freedom. “Five men are testifying on women’s health,” Pelosi said incredulously. “Where are the women? Imagine having a panel on women’s health and they don’t have any women on the panel.”

The panel wasn’t on women’s health, it was on religious liberty. The hearing began with one priest, three pastors, and a Jewish rabbi who calmly explained that they would rather disobey the federal mandate, than violate their faith. Later in the hearing, the panel featured two women, one from a Christian university and one from a religious hospital who agreed that the mandate would pose a dilemma for people of faith.

The Democratic leadership side-stepped the debate by changing the subject. Republicans argued that they did have women on the panel, but they watched helplessly as Pelosi pushed past religious concerns, and into a debate that fit her terms.

The Republican “White Knights” who rallied to defend the constitutional right to freedom of religion were quickly labeled as feckless idiots who cared more about politics than women.

When the debate started, Republicans saw the fight for religious liberty as a political slam dunk. The HHS mandate would force individuals to pay for services that violated their faith. Contraception, abortifaciants, and sterilization operations would now be funded by all business owners, regardless of religious preference.

Catholics bishops spoke boldly against the mandate from the pulpit, alarming members of the media who in turn raised awareness of an overbearing federal government attacking the Catholic Church. Republicans followed. It appeared that Obama had overstepped his boundaries and would pay a heavy political price for his audacity.

Just as quickly as Republicans took up the battle flag for religious liberty, they hastily tugged it down after Pelosi’s attack.  With no one left to lead a counter-attack, Pelosi joined with her pro-choice allies and fellow activist Sandra Fluke to embarrass Republicans thoroughly in the realm of public opinion.

Few stood in the way of the group’s messaging battle. Rush Limbaugh, one of the few public figures trying to ridicule the controversy, failed miserably after using a crude satirical monologue that was ugly and improper. Those words were used as a club against Republicans who ducked out of sight until the damaging news cycle passed.

As a historic defender of abortion on demand, under the guise of “women’s health,” Pelosi effortlessly put Republicans on their heels, using every political weapon at her disposal. Senate majority leader Harry Reid allowed a vote on the Blunt Amendment,  knowing that enough Democrats would vote in favor of tabling the legislation.  The Republican leadership scrambled back to more politically expedient issues such as gas prices and the economy.

Defenders of the mandate boldly proclaimed that the to right to free contraception was more important the right to religious freedom. That argument could have been challenged and defeated.   Republicans began as self-proclaimed champions who took up the cause of religious freedom, a founding principle of our constitution worthy of a full-throated defense. They ended the battle labeled as political opportunists fighting a war against women.

You don’t lose that kind of battle, unless you surrender.

Charlie Spiering


Charlie Spiering writes in Washington D.C. for the Washington Examiner. He previously wrote for the Rappahannock News and worked as a reporter for columnist Robert Novak.

  • Alex

    This is an overly negative title—Republicans fought well, but were simply beat in the arena of public perceptions.

    There is another concern as well,  the realization that this controversy was benefiting Obama. This is exactly what Team Obama needs to win—to talk about contraception till November, or any other issue that distracts from from high unemployment and other failures.

  • Cord_Hamrick

    Keep in mind that it was the mainstream media which propagandized, here.

    It is their treachery which has produced this dire danger to human liberty. Their predecessors as recently as the 50’s would vomit to see it.

    Anyone who understands the reality behind the situation understands that the Democrats are, in this fight, the forces of evil, full stop. It is only the confused misinformed dupe, knowing only what the mainstream media tells him, who believes them in the right.

    The thing to do is simply have no contact with and give no quarter to the mainstream media, except in such a way as to either shame them or damage them financially.

    Watch your MSNBC through free YouTube clips alone. Cancel cable if you can’t avoid subsidizing it otherwise. Read the New York Times and books by leftists and movies or television shows with leftist spin in pirated electronic form, if you can obtain it, or not at all. Refuse to purchase or subsidize anything they’re selling. When asked for an interview with Katie Couric, tell her, no, no interview, because, “I wouldn’t grant Goebbels an interview, either.”

    If that isn’t going to be your approach, then your approach must — must! be Breitbart-like. Be a lion and give no quarter. Go on leftist programs in order to laugh at their inanity and intellectual dishonesty and to point it out to their faces and to shame them. Walk into the Colosseum a happy warrior and laugh loudly, and walk away a free man…and when they grill you mercilessly, tell them you need to be turned over, ’cause you’re done on that side.

    If you’re the type of personality who doesn’t crave a single one of these quislings as a friend — and our politicians probably can’t be trusted to handle this strategy inasmuch as most of them have a pathological desire to be liked, which is why they got into politics — then you can succeed at this. Remind yourself always that enemy forces on the battlefield are not a suitable place to form friendships: You can have plenty of those among friendly forces.

    Unless they — and by “they” I mean one or two individuals among them, for there is no point hoping that they’ll repent en masse —  show openness to being convinced by facts and rational discourse, supporters of the HHS mandate and their allies in the traditional news outlets are not, for the time being, to be construed as friends or family, but as enemies against whom the use of force is not morally authorized, but against whom all manner of shaming and shunning and detraction for their evil behavior is just.  (Note: I said “detraction,” not “calumny”; We must be blameless and use truthful, accurate detraction. That was Limbaugh’s error.) Moreover, a good person ought not to work for them or accept any money from them, just as Abraham took no money from the king of Sodom, and for the same reasons.

    They are still to be respected as persons created in the image of God.

    But it is long past time we stopped, by our silence, giving tacit approval for their wickedness. One must sometimes deal with the otherwise pleasant persons who, in accord with the banality of evil, swell the ranks of the devil’s toolbox. We must deal with them as fellow human beings with fitting courtesy. We must also forgive (seventy times seven, if needed!) if the opportunity arises, and we are not to hate them.

    All the same, we ought not socialize. That trivializes the situation. It has gotten beyond that.

    I’m not sure what the winning tactic will ultimately be, or if there will be one in the end. It must be something sufficient to snap the head around with a sudden desire to take a fresh look. If they were turning firehoses on the bishops and pelting us with stones — this is a human-rights outrage, after all — it would be easier. That would be the kind of thing to draw the attention of the man in the street, to make him ask questions. But I doubt they’ll be so foolish as that: They’re very clever about avoiding “bad optics.”

    Still, the time may come when the Church will simply have to turn its pockets inside out — and by “the Church” I mean us, not some institution separate from us — to provide legally unsanctioned healthcare (sans contraception) and adoption services (sans gay adoption) to the poor, while Catholic doctors and adoption workers gladly accept arrest for doing it. I wish it wasn’t coming to that, but looks that way.

  • Scott

    It is important to understand why we are losing this battle.  This, to inform our strategy and approach moving forward, is very important.  We can wait and see how SCOTUS rules on the constitutionality but what about the hearts and minds of Americans?  Many of whom are Catholic (25% of which are Catholic; 76% of which are Christian)… Clearly, there is poor catechesis but there is also even poorer formation amongst the laity.  Again, what can we do, as individuals, and as a group?

    • PW

      The hearts and minds of Americans are, imo, lost and clouded by mists. As if Loki, or some other malevolent false god of old tricked them. Look at mass attendance numbers, look at the evangelical “mega-church’ movement, look at the numbers that have come out of Catholic Women and contraception, let alone Catholics in general using the pill and condoms. All of thus **plus** media propaganda makes for a very hard playing field. A very intelligent, and non-religious, friend of mine once asked me why so many fools represent the Church in the public sphere. I shrugged and chalked it up to polarized American views. What needs to happen is to have very sharp, educated, quick witted and charming Catholics step up to replace the Phil Donahue’s of the world.  That and an *attempt* at education. Really, I’m surprised anyone is surprised we “lost” this round, they managed to make the murder of children legal, after all, this is child’s play for them.

  • JP

    In hindsight, the Issa Hearings were a trap the GOP set for itself. Issa and the GOP were correct, of course. But, it would have been better if they used different tactics. The Left forever has ambushed the GOP during hearings like Issa’s. Pelosi set a trap; but, it was a trap the Dems have been setting for 5 or 6 decades.

    Perhaps Issa should have found several administrators of Catholic charity services (along with the recipients of thier charity (cancer patients and the homeless)). He then could have called a press conference and let these people tell thier story. He could have then wrapped things up by inviting a priest or sister tell the audience that these services will be going away in order to make room for free birth control as mandated by the President.

    Sure, it’s cynical. But, it’s the way the game is played.

  • athreadinthehemofHisrobe

    The media is made up of individuals and each believes they are independently coming to a decision to support the mandate.  Politicians believe this as well.  The whole support for abortion is not logical.  So why does it seem that there is a movement, conspiracy or a meeting of minds.  Who whispers to man telling him that he can have sex without responsibility? Who whispers to woman telling her she can have it all and then whispers guilty thoughts?  Who is the destroyer of families?  Woman was used in the garden to betray man.  This ploy is as old as time and he is still using the same ploy. 

  • Paumaguy

    In fact Pelosi and her gang insulted the public’s intelligence. Obama has seen his support by women dropping in the polls.The issue is about religious liberty and the public knows it. Your article underestimates women’s political savy and overestimates Pelosi’s brain power.

  • Why is this being defined as a women’s healthcare issue? First, my understanding is that Catholic employers wish not to have to pay for contraception or abortificants for anyone, irsepective of gender. Second, this is not a health issue – contraception or abortificants are not medicines, but drugs designed to prevent or destroy a natural process. Since their aim is to turn human physical love into a recreational activity, they are essentially recreational drugs. Since there is no right to any other recreational drugs, I see no reason why employers who have a moral objection to these should be forece to pay for them.

  • Alecto

    Women did not fall for the Democrat High Priestess’ ruse, including her attempt to highjack the language by inserting “healthcare” for “abortifacient”.  If we are to believe the polling, women saw through this idiotic ploy like a cheesecloth over the Venus de Milo.  Whether Republicans are as devious as Democrats can be debated.  If the goal was to make voters aware of the machinations of the Democratic party and its useful idiots, then Republicans should be glad.  They succeeded.  Americans are armed and headed to the polls in November and they’re mad as hell.

    I would also point to the proliferation of Super PACs and non-affiliated voter groups who are educating the electorate about critical issues and candidates.  Due to the efforts of these groups, who have the good of the country at heart rather than personal political survival, a number of phoney-baloney Republicans as well as career Democrats are being primaried out of office.  If only Nanny Pelosi’s district had been gerrymandered.  Hope springs eternal!

  • 4k9

    A panel of only men discussing access to contraception, what could go wrong? Oh, wait, everything.

  • Pingback: To Isolate and Marginalize: Obama takes Cue from Castro — Crisis Magazine()