President Obama's new mandate requiring all employers to purchase insurance coverage for their employees that includes abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception is an outrage, of course.
But what kind of outrage is it? Most of the public outcry has understandably centered around the mandate's assault on religious liberty. The mandate forces every businessman or nonprofit executive with religious objections to these products to buy them anyway, or pay a fine.
The mandate is unconstitutional, for its violation of the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause. It is also illegal, for its violation of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Some of the outrage has been rightly directed specifically at the president, as both the mandate and the underlying law, Obamacare, are his doing.
Indeed, many pro-life citizens and members of Congress only supported Obamacare's passage because the president assured them that conscience rights would be protected. Thus the mandate is also a personal betrayal.
And some of the outrage is more practical. The Obama administration's mathematically impossible assertion that abortion drugs, sterilization and contraception will somehow now simply be "free," and thus not paid for by morally opposed insurance customers, suggests the president believes in magic.
All of these affronts to the rights and intelligence of the American people are enough to warrant the criticism the new mandate has invited. The violation of conscience rights is simultaneously unconstitutional, illegal and ridiculous -- any one of which are sufficient grounds for its immediate rescission.
Yet, it is still not our true cause of concern. Ultimately, the character and ideology of the president, and the particular constitutional provisions being trampled by this one mandate are incidental, compared to the manifest threat to freedom intrinsic to Obamacare itself.
The problem is not how the federal government is abusing its new power in this instance, but that the government -- indeed, a single person -- suddenly wields this power at all.
To many, the anti-religious freedom mandate seems like the beginning of a slippery slope. Today, the government forces us to buy abortion pills -- tomorrow they may force us to pay for euthanasia, or deny expensive treatments to the very weak or very old.
However, just as frightening as the proverbial slippery slope is the proverbial seesaw. If a pro-choice liberal president can force insurance companies to cover the morning after pill, could a pro-life conservative president force them not to?
Could an anti-smoking president deny coverage for lung disease? Could a president who embraced New Age, alternative medicine restrict coverage for traditional medical treatments?
The danger is not that they would, but, under Obamacare, that they could. That Obamacare turns the temporary executive of one branch of a limited government into an emperor with absolute power over one-sixth of our economy, and the most intimate of personal life decisions.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "As I would not be a slave, I would not be a master." What he meant was that if we ourselves wish to live free of oppression, we have a responsibility not to oppress others.
In the same way, if you don't want government to coerce your health care choices, you should take great pains not to let government coerce anyone else's. Health insurance choices should be as diverse as we are.
But that kind of freedom and diversity is prohibited under Obamacare. What this latest Obamacare mandate reveals is that this law is fundamentally inconsistent with liberty.
The question is, which is more important? Is Obamacare a threat to freedom? Or is freedom a threat to Obamacare?
The controversy over this particular consequence of Washington's health care takeover will soon be followed by another, and another, and another -- the next mandate, the next rationing, the next restriction, the next loss of liberty.
There will be no rest -- ever -- from these battles so long as Obamacare remains on the books. Regardless of their outcomes, these battles by definition cannot be won.
All Americans -- liberal or conservative, pro-life or pro-choice, devout or secular -- must recognize that these skirmishes are a trap, a distraction. A truly free people would never have them at all. They are like arguments over the silverware pattern, while our house is burning down.
The threat to our constitution, our God-given rights, and your privacy is not in the government officials who have power over our health care choices. The real threat is in the poisonous law that gives them that power in the first place.
This controversy has taught us one thing: The government takeover of health care is not merely imperfect, it is essentially corrosive. It cannot be tweaked.
It cannot be improved on the margins. It cannot be fixed. Obamacare is a cancer, and every last word of it must be repealed.
Sen. Jim DeMint is a South Carolina Republican.