Ross Douthat, on the lawsuit filed this week by a group of Catholic institutions — including various dioceses, Catholic institutions, charities, and colleges, including the University of Notre Dame — against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate:

Whether these organizations win in court will presumably depend on how the judicial branch weighs the public health concern involved. It’s true that religious institutions can’t be exempt from every regulation they don’t like, and maybe the courts will accept the argument that it’s worth sacrificing a measure of religious liberty in order to marginally expand the number of insurance plans covering contraception.

But the mere existence of the suit, and the diversity of the institutions associated with it, creates a political headache for the Obama campaign. For decades, Democratic politicians have found ways to win Catholic swing voters despite taking positions that are at odds with the Catholic Church’s views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and yes, contraception. But it will be considerably harder for this White House to win over those same voters if it seems to be picking a fight with American Catholicism as a culture — with the local Catholic hospital, the local Catholic soup kitchen, and yes, the Fighting Irish.

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