The National Catholic Register is reporting that the new ad, produced by CatholicVote.org, starts with a young Catholic school girl starting directly into the camera and asking: "Dear President Obama, can I ask you a question? Why are you trying to force my church or my school to pay for things that we don't even believe in?"
Referring to the controversial birth control mandate in ObamaCare that will require all carriers to cover contraceptives, the 30-second spot debuted yesterday on Good Morning America in the heavily Catholic Pittsburgh market. It will also air on cable stations in southwest Florida.
The ad also mentions the recent National Labor Relations Board rulings which determined that two historically Catholic colleges had become insufficiently Catholic to warrant a religious exemption.
“We want to alert Catholics and people of all faiths, frankly, about the threats to religious liberty by the Obama administration,” said Josh Mercer, director of communications for CatholicVote.org.
One of the reasons the ad is running now is because the president is allegedly reconsidering the birth control mandate.
“The reason that we’re doing the ad right now is because President Obama is reconsidering it, and we know the only reason he’s reconsidering it is because he’s looking at his re-election coming up in less than a year,” Mercer said. “And we want to let the voters of western Pennsylvania know — because Pittsburgh’s a very Catholic town — exactly what’s going on with this issue.”
The Obama Administration's infringement on religious liberty also includes its support for same-sex marriage which has resulted in discriminatory policies in many states where the unions are legal.
These concerns prompted the U.S. bishops conference to form an Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in September of this year. Chaired by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the creation of the new office is directly linked to actions by the federal government, as well as to a number of troubling state laws.
Religious freedom “in its many and varied applications for Christians and people of faith is now increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America,” said New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“This is most particularly so in an increasing number of federal government programs or policies that would infringe upon the right of conscience of people of faith or otherwise harm the foundational principle of religious liberty," he said.
“As shepherds of over 70 million U.S. citizens, we share a common and compelling responsibility to proclaim the truth of religious freedom for all, and so to protect our people from this assault, which now appears to grow at an ever-accelerating pace in ways most of us could never have imagined.”
In an interview with the Register, Bishop Lori said threats to religious liberty are long-standing, but have become a special focus for a variety of reasons.
“Violations of religious liberty at the state level are on the rise, especially in those states that have redefined civil ‘marriage’ to include same-sex couples,” he said. “Certainly the bishops are concerned over the Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations. ... Similarly the federal government’s decision to end long-standing cooperative agreements with [Catholic Relief Services] and [Migration and Refugee Services] because these Catholic service providers will not provide ‘the full range of reproductive services’ is troubling. ... Over time, religious liberty has eroded in both law and culture, at all levels of government, and around the world.”
Richard Thompson, the president of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting the religious freedom of Christians, told the Register that he agrees with the bishops that the religious liberty of Catholics has been seriously undermined during the current administration.
“You can go right down the list of almost every major cultural issue that has been promoted by the Obama administration, as it relates to abortion, as it relates to homosexual ‘marriage,’” Thompson said. “It’s attempting to intimidate the Church into abandoning doctrine.”
The Obama administration has been heavily influenced by “a strongly anti-Christian philosophy,” Thompson continued.
In addition to the anti-Christian philosophy coming out of the White House, Catholics are also facing it from other sectors of contemporary American society, such as higher education and the entertainment industry.
This is why it's so important for Catholics to rally in defense of their Church.
“We’re doing that in, of course, the courts,” Thompson said, referring to the work of the Thomas More Law Center. “But, obviously, Catholic voters have to understand what is going on and discern which of their representatives will truly support the constitutional protections that have been given to religion in general.”
For this reason, the new CatholicVote ad campaign will attempt to highlight religious-freedom issues between now and next year's election. They plan to pay particular attention to voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. All four states have a significant Catholic vote and swung from supporting Obama in 2008 to voting for the Republican Party in 2010.
“We’ll be doing a lot of ads over the next year focusing on the presidential election,” Mercer said. “The Catholic vote itself is very much up for grabs in 2012. And we’re hoping to convince our fellow Catholics that they need to support a president who will be pro-life, pro-family and will be respectful of religious liberties.”
Click here to view the ad.
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