Rachel Maddow pointed out in her op-ed in The Washington Post that in the US there is no constitutional medical condition obliging religious institutions to follow the same insurance and labor regulations as other employers. “Twenty-eight states already require that health insurance plans cover contraception; eight states do not even exempt churches from that requirement, as the Obama administration's rules would, even before the president announced an expanded religious exemption on Friday,” she put forth.
However, Obama has received very sharp criticism from Republicans. In The Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer criticized Obamacare coverage in his column, saying: “Give him points for cleverness. President Obama's birth control ‘accommodation' was as politically successful as it was morally meaningless. It was nothing but an accounting trick that still forces Catholic (and other religious) institutions to provide medical insurance that guarantees free birth control, tubal ligation and morning-after abortifacients -- all of which violate church doctrine on the sanctity of life.”
In addition, Obama has even received criticism from Democrats. “Before Barack Obama can defeat his opponents, he must first be rescued from his friends,” wrote columnist Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. “Obama's goal was not resolution but obfuscation,” he continued, “The contraceptive mandate was shifted from Catholic employers to insurance companies. Instead of being forced to buy an insurance product that violates their beliefs, religious institutions will be forced to buy an insurance product that contributes to the profits and viability of a company that is federally mandated to violate their beliefs. Creative accounting, it seems, can cover a multitude of sins. But an indirect requirement is less aggressive and humiliating than a direct one.”
In addition, Gary Gutting of The New York Times has made a point worth taking into account. “The mistake of the Obama administration -- and of almost everyone debating its decision -- was to accept the bishops' claim that their position on birth control expresses an authoritative ‘teaching of the church.' … The bishops' claim to authority in this matter has been undermined because Catholics have decisively rejected it. The immorality of birth control is no longer a teaching of the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI meant his 1968 encyclical, ‘Humanae Vitae,' to settle the issue in the manner of the famous tag, ‘Roma locuta est, causa finita est.' In fact the issue has been settled by the voice of the Catholic people.”
It is my understanding that since religiosity is always a convenient tool to use against Democrats, Republicans have chosen the battle over the issue of birth control for this election year. And only time will show the political impact of this fight, but it's obvious that given the relevant political context it will affect more than just the results of the 2012 election.