Remember when you were learning American history in grade school?

We were told how the Puritans came to America for religious freedom.

And then the Puritans, we learned, tried to impose their religious view on others. So, as school kids used to know, Roger Williams had to go to Rhode Island because of his religious views.

Well, meet the feminist movement. They like to claim that they were victims of patriarchy and oppression. Well, now it's their turn, right?

To cite a case in point, Ms. Magazine has a recent blog item praising President Obama as he “stands up to bishops” to protect birth control. The item says:

Feminists–including Feminist Majority President (and Ms. publisher) Eleanor Smeal–have loudly urged the administration not to let Catholic Bishops deny no-cost birth control coverage to millions.

Contraception is widely available. It is available inexpensively for low-income women. The issue is not contraception. It is whether faith-based institutions should have to pay for something they regard as morally objectionable. But, well, like the Puritans who chased poor old Roger Williams to Rhode Island, the feminists brook no heresy, now that they have clout. Live and let live? Not on your life.

Cato’s Michael Tanner makes the important point about the current public debate over the mandate:

Republicans are in the process of fumbling this opportunity away by turning what should be a discussion of government power into an argument about contraception….

The problem with the contraceptive mandate is not the contraceptive part — it’s the mandate.

As the always clever Don Surber, one of my favorite bloggers, puts it: it's the noun, not the adjective, that is the cause for concern.

Discussion of the bogus issue of contraception, a religious, not a polical, issue, could actually end up helping the president because (as Surber notes) it distracts attention from his $787 billion stimulus that didn’t help the economy and other economic failures. But the mandate is more than a distraction (to use one of the president’s buzz words): it is a presidential encroachment on our liberty.

Surber has a picture of President Obama wearing a bishop’s miter—it captures the audacity of a president’s daring to tell religious institutions that they must violate the tenets of their faith. It shows how the government is, in effect, deciding how religious a a religious institution is: Well, Father, you don't have to pay for contraception insurance for the church secretary. But President Obama and Secretary Sebelius have decided the Catholic hospital down the street just isn't religious enough to qualify an exemption from the mandate.

Instead of talking about contraception, which is a better issue for the pulpit than a presidential campaign, conservative politicians should be talking about mandates. Tanner writes:

Among other benefits, your policy must now include mental health benefits, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, prescription drugs, dental and vision care for children and a host of other services. You may not want those benefits, and they may make your insurance more expensive, but it is no longer your choice. The government will now decide for you. Your choice of deductibles and co-payments will also be restricted.

This is about our historic liberties as citizens of a democracy.