Conservative commentator Eric Metaxas took the religious lobbyists' argument against birth control coverage to a new extreme on MSNBC Tuesday morning, comparing the Obama administration's new contraception mandate to the rise of Nazi Germany.
"In [my] book, you read about what happened to an amazingly great country, called Germany," he said in an on-air debate with NARAL Pro-Choice America's Donna Crane. "I'm half German. Uh, in the early '30s, little things were happening where the state was bullying the churches. No one spoke up. In the beginning, it always starts really, really small. We need to understand as America, as Americans, if we do not see this as a bright line in the sand, if you're not a Catholic, if you use contraception, doesn't matter. Because eventually, this kind of government overreach will affect you. If we don't speak up, we're gonna be in trouble."
Metaxas was recently awarded the "Canterbury Medal" by the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, a conservative advocacy organization that is representing a Catholic college and an evangelical university in a lawsuit against the new birth control rule.
Religious groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have organized a powerful lobby in opposition to the Department of Health and Human Services' recent decision to require that almost all health insurance plans cover contraception with no co-pay. Churches and other places of worship are exempt from the requirement, but the religious groups are pushing to broaden the exemption to include all employers who are morally opposed to contraception.
A petition calling for the Obama administration to rescind the birth control mandate had received 24,118 comments as of 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday -- just under a thousand short of the 25,000 signatures it needs to elicit an official response from the White House.
But a new poll from the Public Religious Research Institute shows that a majority (55 percent) of Americans agree that "employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost." Nearly 60 percent of Catholic respondents support the birth control rule, and 40 percent of all the people polled said they opposed it.
A senior administration official said in a conference call last week that the decision is about "ensuring there are no cost barriers" to contraception for women who need it.
"We believe this decision was made after very careful consideration of legal and policy points," she said, "and strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and providing access to services."