Political strategists are warning that the U.S. bishops planned two weeks of protest in June and July could lead to powerful images of nuns and priests being led away in handcuffs, scenes that could have an enormous impact on the 2012 presidential election.
The Hill is reporting that the protest, which was announced several weeks ago in the U.S. bishop’s statement on religious liberty entitled, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, is calling on Catholics to engage in two weeks of public rallies from June 21 to July 4 to protest the government’s increasing encroachment on religious freedom. The protests are expected to include priests and nuns and with some activists predicting civil disobedience, the kind of images the public will see during these protests will certainly cast the Obama Administration in a very unfavorable light.
President Obama has seen his standing among Catholic voters, a crucial segment of the electorate, slip in recent weeks, and a looming confrontation with Catholic activists could make it worse.
“This is the most dynamic situation I’ve ever seen since I’ve been involved in Catholics and politics,” said Deal Hudson, president of Catholic Advocate, who also headed Catholic outreach for the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign in 2000 and 2004. “I think civil disobedience is almost inevitable. I think that kind of protest is on the way.”
Republican strategists agree and say the rallies could become powerfully symbolic in the presidential election.
“These would be devastating images for the Obama administration,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist, to The Hill. “You have a very important religious demographic coming out in protest of Obama’s policies and being arrested for their expression. These images would be politically damaging for the president’s campaign.”
In addition to the rallies, plans are also being discussed to join forces with evangelical Christian groups on a broader public relations campaign that will include television and radio ads, all focusing on the infringement of rights that most Americans, religious and non-religious, hold sacred.
Steven Wagner, the president of QEV Analytics, a polling firm that recently conducted a survey for The Catholic Association, told The Hill he believes religion could emerge as a sleeper issue in the election: “Everyone says this election is about the economy. I can see the issue of religious liberty being what decides the race. If Obama continues to lose Catholics by the margin the Pew poll suggests, that means he could lose the key swing states of Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Iowa.”
The latest Pew poll found that Obama’s support among Catholics has dropped eight percentage points since the advent of the HHS mandate controversy in January. With a majority of Americans saying they believe people should be permitted to opt out of insurance programs that provide birth control, abortifacients and sterilizations if it violates an employer’s religious beliefs, the issue will not be a winner for the president.
Obama’s only hope will be to try to convince Americans that the bishops and their supporters are waging a war on women. However, the bishops have sidestepped this ploy by voicing concern over other issues of religious intolerance, such as the shuttering of Catholic adoption agencies because of Church opposition to same-sex marriage. The conference has also accused the government of discrimination when it tried to force the Church to offer victims of human trafficking contraception and abortion services or lose funding.
Plans for the early summer protests are already underway. Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, said Catholics are “in the stage of preparation about what parishes can do.”
© All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace® http://www.womenofgrace.com