While the HHS contraceptive mandate was front and center during the Democratic National convention, the focus of considerable media attention, the cause of a nationwide protest movement including The Fortnight for Freedom, and the subject of dozens of lawsuits filed by Catholic colleges and other institutions, the issue of religious liberty was essentially ignored during the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney.
Moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS, who did a good job in many ways, failed to ask a question about this important issue despite the focus of the debate being domestic issues. But more surprisingly, President Obama, who couldn't talk about anything else for the past few months, never spoke about the issue either. To be fair, he didn't have a lot of time between his uhm's and uh's.
Romney, however, did give what some might call a "shout-out" to the issue. In answering a question from Lehrer about the role of government, Romney pointed to the text of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that was used as a background behind the stage.
"The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents," he said. "First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people."
He added, "In that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose."
He did a few things with those few sentences. He reminded some that Obama tends to drop the "Creator" when quoting our country's founding documents. He slightly emphasized life. And he reminded us that religious freedom has certainly been imperiled during this past four years.
There is one more opportunity for this issue to be raised during a debate on Oct. 16 in a town hall-style debate in which foreign and domestic topics will be welcome. The final debate on Oct. 22, however, is slated to center exclusively on foreign affairs.
This would've been the first time the issue could've been debated in front of millions of people instead of demagogued. But maybe that's why it wasn't brought up.
This administration has not just attacked religious liberty, it's trampled on it. The Administration has issued a mandate that forces religious institutions to provide for abortifacients, they dropped their defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, and argued in court that the government could interfere in employment decisions of religious organizations and churches.
Oh and please don't believe anyone that tells you that same sex "marriage" won't affect religious institutions. If the Administration considers the right to contraceptives important enough to run roughshod over religious liberty, why would they do less for "marriage?"
But think about it. Dozens of institutions have sued the Obama administration over the HHS mandate. Notre Dame is among them. Notre Dame! And we still can't get a sniff? The bishops haven't exactly been shy about this issue, have they? The Democrat National convention was essentially an infomercial for the contraceptive mandate. Sandra Fluke spoke in prime time. So why the silence now? Did the "war on women" meme not pay the dividends they were hoping for?
We'll see what happens during the next debate.