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This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the ongoing fight over women's access to contraception, which had faded from the front pages, but which clearly hasn't gone away.

Sarah Kliff reported yesterday that Ohio's Steubenville University "decided it would end its student health insurance plan rather than comply with the health reform law's mandated coverage of contraceptives," and other schools are likely to follow suit. Lawyers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops intends to go further, taking their opposition to contraception to court.

The Catholic Church's U.S. hierarchy warned Tuesday that without quick action by Congress, it will sue the Obama administration for mandating that insurance plans provide birth control to women without a co-pay. [...]

The bishops group and its leader, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, have led calls to rescind the mandate but threatened court action Tuesday in light of "approaching regulatory deadlines."

For the record, houses of worship are already exempt from the contraception policy, and the Obama administration approved a compromise so that religiously-affiliated institutions will not have to directly pay for contraception if they don't want to.

But the fight continues anyway. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at Georgetown yesterday, where she faced protestors and hecklers, but reminded her audience of John F. Kennedy's remarks in 1960 to Baptist leaders in Houston, and the vision of an America in which "no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials."

It probably wasn't a message the bishops wanted to hear.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Radical TV preacher Pat Robertson offered some destructive advice to a viewer this week concerned about a friend's Buddhist statue.

* President Obama's re-election team hired a religious outreach director this week: Michael Wear, who currently serves as executive assistant to the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

* And Norway will amend its constitution so that it no longer has an official religion, ending the 1,000-year tradition of its state church. Policymakers made the move to respect the nation's growing pluralism and religious diversity.