The defeat of the Blunt Amendment, which happened earlier today, is grim news for the country and all who believe in our First Amendment right to religious freedom.

It is hard to believe that a majority of U.S. Senators are willing to trample upon the right to the religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution. But that appears to be the case. The vote was 51-48, largely along party lines, though three Democrats (Robert Casey, Ben Nelson, and Joe Manchin) crossed the aisle to support the amendment.

Although the immediate controversy is over whether Catholic and other faith-based institutions must pay for health insurance policies for services they regard as objectionable, the Blunt amendment would have exempted any employer from paying for coverage for procedures deemed morally objectionable by that employer.

The tragedy is that this abridgement of religious freedom is over contraception, which is available everywhere and also is inexpensive. The Catholic Church, which teaches that contraception is morally objectionable, is simply asking that affiliated institutions not be asked to pay for something they regard as sinful.  

National Review Online has posted responses to the amendment’s defeat. Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, is particularly good:

We diminish liberty when we give the government a veto on our deepest held beliefs. Today’s vote was short-term political win for liberal lobbying groups and a long term loss for religious freedom in America.

Now that Congress has abdicated its role as the protectors of our constitutional rights, the many religious employers and individuals burdened by the unconstitutional mandate  will have to await the vindication of their rights in the courts.

In a blog post this morning before the Blunt Amendment was defeated, Mike Brownfield of the Heritage Foundation “221 years [after the Bill of Rights], centuries of progress in the protection of religious and other liberties is at risk of being rolled back in one fell swoop.”

Brownfield writes:

Let’s make this clear one more time: The issue isn’t about birth control — it’s about the federal government’s power to force a religious institution like Georgetown University to bend to its will and take actions that are fundamentally at odds with its core values.

Religious groups are faced with an untenable choice: violate conscience or drop coverage and face penalties for doing so.

That’s why so many Americans — men and women alike — are speaking out against the anti-conscience mandate and its fine on faith.

It is a dark day when we see that the majority of U.S. senators see nothing wrong in infringing upon our religious freedoms.

And I have to ask: If you use contraception and can’t quietly take care of this by yourself, what can you manage on your own?