President Barack Obama's attempt to dodge political flak over his administration's attack on religious freedom is nothing more than a shell game. It remains to be seen whether church leaders concerned about the original edict will decide Obama's amendment to it is acceptable.
For about three weeks the White House insisted all employers, including church-sponsored ones such as colleges and hospitals, would have to provide workers with health insurance providing access to contraceptives. Roman Catholic leaders pointed out that went against church teachings, especially regarding drugs some consider to be ''abortifacients.''
The edict was a blatant interference with the religious freedom of institutions which, for reasons of faith, object to such contraceptives. And as has been pointed out, religious liberty, not access to contraceptives, was the issue. The government could have found another way to guarantee such access.
Youngstown Diocese Bishop George V. Murry was among those who voiced their dissent. He wrote a letter that was distributed or read to parishioners nearly two weeks ago. Part of his letter said the decision ''casts aside the First Amendment, denying to Catholics our nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.''
On Friday, Obama said the policy has been changed. Now, religious employers will not be required to provide such coverage. Instead, the White House claimed, the mandate will apply to insurance companies. They will be required to provide contraceptives free of charge.
Again, that's a shell game. Someone will have to pay for the contraceptives. That may mean religious institutions will do so indirectly, through slightly higher insurance premiums.
This is simply one more case in which Obama insists a major change has been made when, in reality, he is merely using a different approach to the same goal.