An interesting story here about internal dissensus between President Obama and several Democrats in the House. The issue is that under the new health insurance regulations which are part of the health care overhaul, all employers are required to cover contraceptives for women free of charge as well as certain types of medical sterilization, and there is disagreement both about whether there should be any exemption at all for religious employers and, if so, about how broad the exemption should be.
It appears from the story that the President is at least somewhat favorably disposed to a broader exemption — one which might protect not only churches but also religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, and other religious organizations — while House Democrats are opposed to that enlargement and possibly to any exemption at all (such a position would mean that the Catholic Church, for example, would be compelled to cover contraceptive devices free of charge for its employees). As an unnamed Senate Democrat who participated in the discussions is reported to have noted, “This is a pro-choice president. It’s a surprise that we are even having this debate with the administration.” It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but I’m fairly confident of one thing: much as I respect Senator Hatch, I do not believe that any exemption is constitutionally required under the Free Exercise Clause as interpreted under current doctrine.