JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- At a Monday morning rally at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront in Jacksonville, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sharply condemned the Obama administration's recent decision not to exempt religiously-affiliated groups from a rule requiring employers to offer birth control coverage to the women they employ.
"The Obama administration is engaged in a war against religion," he said.
The new rule stems straight from the Affordable Care Act. Most women employed in the U.S. will have the cost of their birth control covered with no co-pay, effective Aug. 1.
The rule always exempted employers such as churches and other places of worship whose primary purpose is imparting religious beliefs. But many religious groups argued it was too narrow and should apply to religious-affiliated organizations as well. The Obama administration disagreed, but it gave these employers an extra year to comply with the new law.
"Their decision last week that they would impose on every Catholic institution, every Jewish institution, every Protestant institution, the Obamacare standard of what you have to buy as insurance is a direct violation of freedom and religion -- an example of the increasingly dictatorial attitude of this administration," Gingrich said.
"Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said this is a direct assault of freedom of religion in America and a complete violation of our First Amendment rights," he added, referencing objections of the new rule by the Catholic Church, of which Gingrich is a member. "On the first day that I am president, I will issue an executive order repealing every aspect of infringement upon religious liberties in America at that moment."
Dolan is currently archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He will soon be elevated to cardinal. In the wake of the Obama administration's decision on the rule, Dolan has said he felt "a sense of personal disappointment."
"I had to share with him that I was terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed, and it seemed the news he had given me was difficult to square with the confidence I had felt in November," Dolan said of a phone conversation he had with the president on the issue.
On issues of women's reproductive rights, Gingrich supports defunding Planned Parenthood and has said he would back a federal personhood amendment defining life at conception.
Take a look at candidates' stances on issues of women's reproductive rights: