By Martin Finucane
Ray Flynn, the former Democratic mayor of Boston, is applauding Republican US Senator Scott Brown for supporting a "conscience exemption" from President Barack Obama's policy on birth control coverage.
"I find it outrageous that anyone in a position of public trust would trample on the conscience of people of religious beliefs," Flynn, a former Ambassador to the Vatican, said in a letter to Brown today.
Flynn praised Brown's "steadfast leadership" and said, "I intend to tell anyone who will listen how you stood tall in protecting the human and civil rights of everyone."
Flynn is a devout Catholic and was anti-abortion during his entire political career. He also has been known to lend his support to Republican candidates.
The Senate is considering a measure sponsored by Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri that would allow employers and insurers to opt out of provisions in Obama's health care law to which they object on religious grounds.
That includes the recently rewritten requirement that insurers cover the cost of birth control, even for religiously affiliated employers whose faith forbids contraception.
Democratic US Senator John F. Kerry planned to take the floor of the Senate today to criticize the Blunt legislation.
Kerry called it "dangerous," saying, "This amendment opens up Pandora's box -- its overly broad and vague exceptions could allow children to be denied immunizations, companies to object to mental health services, health plans to deny HIV screenings, and the rejection of maternity care for single mothers."
He also said he was "convinced that we don't have to support a back-door dismantling of health care rights to protect religious liberty," according to his prepared remarks.
Brown, who supports the Blunt bill, said in a Feb. 17 message to Massachusetts residents that he strongly supported "bipartisan legislation in the Senate to provide a conscience exemption from the newest Obamacare mandate."
"This isn't a political issue. This is about freedom to practice your religion without government interference. It's about what makes us Americans," Brown said.
Democrats say the debate is about eroding access to contraception and, more broadly, women's health care rights.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.