Exercises in damage control are nothing new to the office. Six weeks before the mid-term elections in 2010 it organized an Oval Office conference call for the president to mobilize thousands of faith-based and community leaders in support of the very same unpopular health care law passed six months earlier. Had not POLITICO listened in on the call, the public would never have known about it. It was as shameless an exploitation of the faith-based office as any Bush critic could have imagined.

Had I proposed to Bush an Oval conference call with faith leaders to galvanize support for the Iraq War, he would have fired me on the spot.  In contrast, he actually directed me to meet with the most vocal critics of his faith-based initiative, and so I met with the leaders of the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and Democrat senators, congressmen, and governors. 

But the Obama faith-based office doesn’t work that way. If you aren’t seen as an ally on an issue, then you are an enemy. The administration now admits it made no serious effort to consult with key evangelicals, Catholic bishops, Orthodox rabbis and educational institutions like the one I lead, to understand better our concerns. Had there been an effort to provide a meaningful “conscience clause” in the so-called accommodation, there would not be the uproar that persists.

For our part, little Ave Maria University will not comply with the federal government’s mandate to provide abortion-inducing drugs and birth control pills as part of our health plan. No accounting charade can change the fact that the premiums we pay, which represent 95% of the plan’s cost, would most certainly pay for the “free” services we would be obliged to offer through our insurer.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty today is filing a lawsuit on our behalf in the federal court for the Middle District of Florida to protect our rights of conscience. We will discontinue providing health insurance before we knuckle under to a governmental requirement that alters our institution’s very identity.

It is sad that the White House office which should be the most sensitive to religious rights, is in fact leading the stampede to trample them.
President Obama should clean house in his faith-based office, or better yet, close it. It has become a farce, and no one is laughing.

Towey served as President George W. Bush’s director of Faith-Based Initiatives and is the incoming president of Ave Maria University.