In a Washington Post column mainly focused on criticizing Republicans for pandering to conservative evangelicals, Michael Gerson distorted the findings of a survey from the Pew Research Center to push the claim that President Obama has engaged in an “assault on the autonomy of Catholic religious institutions.” This distortion follows a series of attacks from Gerson and others that rely on falsehoods to claim that the Obama administration is engaging in anti-Catholic actions.
To back up his point, Gerson cited the Pew finding that 31 percent of white Catholics say that the Obama administration is “unfriendly toward religion.” However, Gerson ignored the fact that among Catholics of all races, 42 percent of Catholics say that the Obama administration is “friendly to religion” compared to only 25 percent who say the administration is unfriendly.
To the extent that there has been any change in views of Catholics, the repeated baseless attacks on Obama by Gerson and others on issues related to religion is likely to blame.
Rather than doubling down on his claims, Gerson should instead correct the misinformation he has been putting out there. In November 2011, Gerson published a column titled “Obama turns his back on Catholics.” Gerson argued that it was anti-Catholic for the Obama administration to require institutions such as Catholic hospitals to cover birth control. In fact, Catholic hospitals support the Obama administration's policies as does the Catholic population in general.
In his November 2011 column, Gerson cited one other piece of purported evidence of the Obama administration's supposed anti-Catholic bias: the Obama administration's decision to end a contract with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that allowed the bishops to oversee grants to organizations that helped sex-trafficking victims.
The bishops had been requiring that grantees not refer sex trafficking victims (who were by-and-large rape victims) for abortions, the morning after pill, or other contraception. While the Obama administration did end the bishops' contract, it was nonetheless actively engaged in defending the grant against a suit brought by the ACLU. The suit alleged that the grant violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by imposing religiously based restrictions on the disbursement of taxpayer-funded services.
Despite the Obama administration's efforts, however, the federal judge overseeing the case recently ruled that the contract with the bishops violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The ruling stated that the government, by delegating authority to a religious organization which imposed religiously based restrictions on taxpayer funds, was implicitly endorsing the religious beliefs of that USCBB and the Catholic Church.
This shows that the Obama administration's decision to end a controversial program overseen by the bishops was just good sense, not anti-Catholic bias.