“I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country,” Mitt Romney offered during Wednesday night’s debate, when asked by Jim Lehrer about his view of “the role of the government.” He went on to say that “we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared [for] — by one another.”
This, Wolf Blitzer announced on CNN after the debate, was “Romney’s high point,” based on a CNN focus group of 39 voters in Colorado.
And in a poll of 1,000 likely voters McLaughlin & Associates conducted earlier this week for the American Conservative Union, 57 percent agreed with the statement “It is wrong for the federal government to create new healthcare regulations that force employers to violate their religious convictions by providing abortion drugs and contraceptives to their employees.”
This follows other polls: We saw last week that the religious-liberty issue resonates with swing voters in swing states, thanks to a polling company, inc./WomanTrend–conducted poll commissioned by the Susan B. Anthony List. And these indicators go back to earlier this year, showing up even in a New York Times poll when the Department of Health and Human Services abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate was issued.
During a week when a Bible publisher filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over this religious-freedom issue, these numbers should give the White House pause. Given the tone of the Democratic convention in Charlotte — a celebration of legal abortion and its expansion — and the mood of the president’s base post-debate, the president is in no position to walk any of this religious-freedom-eroding mandate back. But expect more campaigns within a campaign like this video issued in September, insisting that the president is, in fact, a defender of religious liberty, hoping voters will look away from the lawsuits that continue to be filed against his administration; look away from the fact that a key ally in the fight for passage of the Affordable Care Act, Sister Carol Keehan, had to renege on her support for the administration and its bogus “accommodation” of the religious freedom of Catholics and other people of faith (the White House website doesn’t even acknowledge that update); and look away from the fact that Obama lied at Notre Dame when he insisted that he was tolerant of differences on these moral issues, when he was in fact about to strike at the heart of a long-held bipartisan consensus protecting conscience rights.
I’d expect Paul Ryan to get into why this is of current urgent concern to American voters when he faces Joe Biden next week in Kentucky, much as he does in this campaign video this week. I’d encourage everyone disturbed by what the administration has insisted on here, and is arguing in court, to educate every voter you have access to on this issue. This is, it has been said, and not just this year, our first freedom. To permit its erosion is abysmal stewardship and we are not doing our jobs as citizens if we let this stand, if we don’t dedicate these next few weeks to voter education among friends and family and communities, whether you’re volunteering, talking, or sharing. We’ve each got a vote. We’ve also got a voice.