Romney, Santorum Not Backing Down on Religious Freedom Debate

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  • Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
    (Photo: REUTERS/Scott Audette)
    Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) listens during the Republican presidential candidates debate in Tampa, Florida, January 23, 2012.
By Paul Stanley, Christian Post Reporter
February 26, 2012|11:14 am

GOP front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are continuing to pressure President Obama on issues of religious freedom, and they apparently have the support of conservative political pundits.

Grove City College political science professor, Dr. Paul Kengor, in an email interview with The Christian Post, said the reason Santorum and other GOP leaders are standing firm in defending religious freedom is because Democrats are forcing the issue.

"He's being led by President Obama into this issue," wrote Kengor. "Rick Santorum, like tens of millions of committed Roman Catholics and evangelicals, has been pushed into this arena by President Obama, compliments of the HHS mandate."

"Like the Catholic Church generally, from the bishops to the laity, he didn't ask for this fight. The fight came to him. He and other Catholics simply want the freedom of conscience they've always had in this nation – until President Obama assaulted them with this executive decree. Obama's fiat was handed down from the mountaintop in Washington, a commandment to Catholics with no room for compromise."

The religious freedom issue became front and center when President Obama announced a mandate that employers are required to provide free birth control to all women – even employers whose religious beliefs prohibit the use of contraception.

Religious institutions, especially Catholic hospitals, cried foul, thus forcing the White House to issue a compromise solution that employers could refrain from providing contraceptives as long as their insurance provider took that burden, which is hardly a relief for self-insured, Catholic healthcare providers.

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Republican leaders, led by presidential candidates seeking the party's nomination, criticized Obama for not understanding that the issue at hand was not about contraception, but rather religious freedom.

Courts do not force Quakers to fight in wars or Jehovah's Witnesses to take the oath of allegiance, opponents of the mandate point out. Why then, would it force other religious institutions to provide free birth control?

Political pundits such as Rod Dreher, who are not especially excited about this season's GOP presidential nominees, also agree that Obama has gone too far in forcing religious institutions to violate their conscience.

"I am not against contraception, but I found the position the administration took, and the way it handled the controversy, chilling," Dreher wrote in an article in The American Conservative. "It told me that when it got right down to it, the Obama administration would stick a shiv in the back of religious institutions to please the cultural left."

Romney, a Mormon, has also stood up against the Obama administration on issues of religious freedom.

"You've got a president who has launched an assault on religious conviction," said Romney during a town hall meeting in Maine. "I find it extraordinary that he (Obama) feels he can tell the Catholic Church what they have to provide for their employees, including devices and instruments they find contrary to their conscience. … There's been an attack launched on religion in this country and on conscience in this country and if I'm president that will end."

Kengor advises the GOP front-runners to maintain their aggressive stance in addressing the contraceptive mandate and other issues the Democrats will throw at them during campaign season.

"Take a cue from Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, the two men who won the Cold War and changed the world for the better in the last century: Be not afraid. It's always better to speak the truth."

"For many people, the truth hurts at first; they'll recoil in horror. But the truth needs to be stated. Reagan found the world stunned when he spoke the truth about the Soviet Union, but eventually they came to see he was right. If Santorum and the others believe they are right, they should say so and speak boldly."

@authorstanley (Twitter)
 

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