Most of the criticism aimed at Joe Biden relating to his disgraceful performance in last Thursday's VP debate has related to his transparent lie about what the Obama administration knew about the September 11 terrorist attack on our Benghazi consulate. But that was by no means the only whopper of consequence he told during the debate. Another lie that may cause nearly as much damage to his boss's re-election prospects involves the one he told about Obamacare's contraception mandate. Whereas his tale about the September 11 attack thwarted the MSM's attempt to bury the Benghazi story, what he said about the contraception mandate actually disinterred a story they thought they had safely deep-sixed until after the election.
Toward the end of the debate, the candidates were asked to discuss "what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion." As part of his response, Paul Ryan pointed out that the Obama administration is using Obamacare to assault our religious liberties: "They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals." He was, of course, referring to the infamous HHS edict requiring employers to provide insurance that pays for abortion drugs, contraception, and sterilization. Predictably, Ryan's comment elicited one of the 85 interruptions whereby America's crazy uncle transformed the debate into a 90-minute exhibition of boorish bluster and balderdash.
When Ryan was permitted to finish, Biden weighed in on the issue with characteristic mendacity: "With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact." This claim obviously bears no resemblance to "fact." As the Heritage Foundation promptly pointed out, "The real 'fact' about the anti-conscience mandate is that it applies to almost all employers --including many religious organizations such as hospitals and social service providers."
And the response to Biden's bald-faced lie was not limited to dispassionate analysis by conservative think tanks. On October 12, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement denouncing the VP's deceptive comments in no uncertain terms. The statement specifically referred to the Catholic organizations cited by Biden himself and used them as evidence that his words were not remotely factual: "The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain 'religious employers.' That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to 'Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,' or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served."
The USCCB is, in fact, showing some reserve in its use of the adjective "narrow" to describe the exemptions the Obama administration was generous enough to include in its imperial edict. As the Archbishop of Washington described the phony "accommodation" made by the President when the contraception mandate produced predictable public outrage, "HHS's conception of what constitutes the practice of religion is so narrow that even Mother Teresa would not have qualified." The Obama administration is, as Paul Ryan succinctly put it despite repeated interruptions by Biden and more than a few from the very moderator who was ostensibly there to prevent such boorish nonsense, "assaulting the religious liberties of this country."
Ryan also directed the following question to Biden, after being interrupted yet again: "Why would they keep suing you?" This was a reference to a series of lawsuits filed against the Obama administration by a wide variety of high-profile Catholic organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and the University of Notre Dame, pursuant to a federal contraception mandate that Biden had just said doesn't force religious organizations to "pay for contraception" or "has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide." The debate's "moderator" came to Biden's rescue on that unanswerable question by demanding of Ryan, "If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?
That interruption saved Biden from answering Ryan's question, but it didn't remove the lawsuits. And these suits are by no means limited to Catholic institutions. In July, Judge John Kane of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued an order forbidding the government from taking action against Hercules Industries for refusing to provide contraceptive coverage to its employees. The plaintiffs argue, as do the Catholic institutions cited by USCCB, that the contraception mandate violates their First Amendment right to religious freedom. And, as if to provide a preview of the kind of justice we can expect to receive in this country if Biden and his boss are re-elected, their government lawyers argue that the plaintiffs have no claim to this fundamental right because they operate a for-profit business.
The usual suspects on the left appeared to be happy with Biden's obnoxious debate performance. And Obama campaign spokeswoman, Clo Ewing, doubled down on his preposterous statement about the contraception mandate: "President Obama and Vice President Biden believe standing up for women's health… no religious institution will have to refer, provide, or pay for contraception." This position, to coin a phrase, is worse than a crime, it's a mistake. Among the states that both campaigns covet this year is Florida, home to many Catholic Hispanics. Recent polls show Romney cutting into Obama's support among that voting bloc. Biden's braying about the contraceptive mandate will not have slowed that trend.
The United States is among the most religious countries on the planet. The Obama administration's assault on religious liberty in an election year was a dumb call. With the collusion of the "news" media, however, they probably thought they had succeeded in burying the issue until after the election. But America's crazy uncle, in addition to drawing attention to the Benghazi blunder, has managed to raise the contraception mandate from the dead as well. Joe is the best man on our team.