WASHINGTON — Republican vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan has made a special video message for Catholic voters pledging that religious-liberty protections will be a “cornerstone” of a Romney-Ryan administration.
“We need a president who will support our God-given rights, not try to circumvent them,” he said in an Oct. 2 video posted to the Romney campaign website.
The video comes after nine months of controversy over the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate requiring most large employers, including many Catholic institutions, to provide employees free insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.
The mandate’s narrow religious exemption applies to employers who primarily employ or serve their co-religionists and would not cover Catholic charities, universities and health systems that employ and serve the general public.
Non-exempt organizations must either comply, drop insurance coverage and face other fines, or face non-compliance fines of $100 per employee per day.
Ryan said religious liberty is “our first freedom,” and there is no guarantee “more precious” than the right to free exercise of religion.
He said Catholics see faith as “more than an individual right.” Rather, faith is “a vital part of our community.”
“We celebrate the unique role our Church plays in caring for Americans of all faiths, or of no faith at all. Catholic charities and hospitals offer services that hold our society together,” he said.
Ryan charged that President Barack Obama has “attacked these indispensible institutions since virtually the moment he took office.”
He encouraged Catholics to join the Romney campaign.
“Together, we will ensure that our faith and our traditions are protected for our children and for generations to come,” he said.
Ryan is only the second Catholic the Republican Party has nominated as its vice-presidential candidate. President Obama’s running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, is also Catholic.
The Obama campaign has its own Catholic outreach efforts. The "Catholics for Obama" group focuses on economic security and foreign-policy issues.
Unlike its online statements in the 2008 campaign, the 2012 Catholics for Obama website does not attempt to portray the president, who supports legal abortion, as a pro-life choice.