Columnist Kathleen Parker is absolutely right: the conflict over whether the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services can order faith-based organizations to pay for insurance policies that include services that go against their moral systems has nothing to do with The Pill:

Most Americans can hardly believe we’re having a national debate about birth control in the 21st century — more than 50 years after the Pill became available and decades after condoms became as commonplace as, well, balloons.

I wrote earlier this week about the intellectual isolation of liberals, which is amusing at a Cleveland Park cocktail party but less so when reflected in public policy. President Obama and his staff probably read that most Catholics do not observe the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control (but many, many do, by the way) and the administration figured they wouldn’t be offended if the government ordered their Church hospitals and schools to pay for contraception.

But, as Parker notes, this wasn’t quite how it turned out:

When the state insists that one’s religious beliefs be supplanted by another’s, in this case by secularism, then might one argue that the state is establishing a religion in contravention of the Constitution’s intent?

The administration may find some (temporary?) compromise on this issue, but, if Obamacare is allowed to stand, it will undoubtedly one day include this mandate or something very similar, which is a state power grab of epic proportions.

An oped in the Wall Street Journal today by Senators Barbara Boxer, Jeanne Shaheen, and Patty Murray defends the HHS decision:

Contraception is not a controversial issue for the vast majority of Americans. Some 99% of women in the U.S. who are or have been sexually active at some point in their lives have used birth control, including 98% of Catholic women, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A recent survey by Hart Research shows 71% of American voters, including 77% of Catholic women voters, supported this provision broadening access to birth control.

Consistent with other federal policies, churches and other groups dedicated to teaching religious doctrine are exempted from providing this coverage under a "conscience clause." But the law does include institutions that have historic religious ties but also have a broader mission, such as hospitals and universities. That's also consistent with federal policy—and with laws that already exist in many states.

What is so noticeable in the oped is that for these three senators it is about The Pill. So focused are they on the issue of contraception that the larger moral questions elude them. They live in the liberal bubble and probably never meet people who don’t share their values. To save somebody in their world $50 or so a month for congraception, it is worth forcing millions to violate their consciences.  

For most of us this controversy goes to the heart of the nature of our liberty, religious freedom, and our right not to be forced by the state to violate our consciences.

You can bet can bet it won't be long before some other facet of Obamacare brings anguish to some other group of Americans. Contraception is merely the face of this particular conflict over liberty and conscience.  

Carrie has already called Inkwell readers’ attention to a Wall Street Journal editorial on the mandate that “has shocked many Americans, demonstrating how the Administration is willing to run rough shod over core liberties to advance the liberal cause of government-provided medicine for all.”

What is so important about this mandate, as the Journal points out, is that it reveals the essence of government-run health care, where our own concerns, our most deeply-held beliefs, and what we want done about our care is irrelevant.

This is the iron fist of government.