A new ad by the Obama campaign acknowledging the importance of religious liberty shows that the issue is still a critical aspect of this election, said a religious freedom advocate.
Months of grassroots efforts to defend religious liberty are paying off, along with lawsuits, rallies and parish campaigns, said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League and co-director of the nationwide Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies.
“It’s having a huge impact, and he's recognizing that,” Scheidler told EWTN News on Sept. 19.
The fact that the web video was made shows that the issue is still alive and that the president feels “threatened” by the impact of the grassroots campaign opposing his policies, he asserted.
In the new ad, which was posted on YouTube on Sept. 17, Obama told voters that his “commitment to protecting religious liberty is and always will be unwavering.”
“From the time of our nation’s founding, people of faith have shaped America,” he said, acknowledging the “powerful force for good” that faith has played throughout the country’s history.
“So faith isn’t just a footnote in our nation’s story,” the president continued. “It reinforces the very essence of America.”
Obama described himself as “someone who values the role of people of all faiths in American life” and said that he is continually touched by stories of “love, service and compassion” that are carried out by people of faith every day.
He said that while “faith is often used as a wedge in our politics,” he will always defend the right of Americans “to speak their minds and to follow their conscience” because he stands “on the side of human dignity and a belief in the inherent worth of all human beings.”
But Scheidler argued that the president’s claim to defend religious freedom is “false” and “meaningless.”
“It’s nothing but empty words,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to buy it.”
He explained that “people of faith” will look at Obama’s actions and see that his administration has repeatedly “attacked the role of faith in the public square.”
Among these attacks is the refusal to allow religious adoption agencies to adhere to their beliefs on marriage when placing children in new homes and an effort by the Justice Department to remove the ministerial exemption that allows churches to choose their own ministers without government interference.
Currently dominating discussions of domestic religious freedom is a mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Numerous religious charities, private businesses and other organizations have sued the government over the mandate, arguing that it infringes upon their ability to live out their religious beliefs and could force them to close their doors.
Scheidler warned that the mandate shows Obama’s willingness “to see faith institutions like Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities shut down.”
Rather than defending religious freedom, the president has illustrated “an unwavering commitment to abortion on demand,” he said.
Scheidler is helping to organize the third national Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally on Oct. 20 in order to “remind voters of the urgency of this issue as they head to the voting booth.”
So far, rallies have been confirmed in 113 cities in 39 states, he said, and more are being added every day.
Tens of thousands of Americans across the country are expected to attend the rallies, with more participating via social media.
Held just two and a half weeks before the election, Scheidler hopes the upcoming rally will mobilize concerned citizens to educate those around them about the importance of this issue.
He is confident about the movement to support religious liberty, particularly now that Obama’s latest ad has confirmed that it will be a “critical issue” in this election.
“To a significant voting bloc, religious freedom is issue number one,” he observed, explaining that religious liberty surpasses issues like the economy and foreign policy in importance because it is a foundational right that is necessary for other basic rights to be secure.
“The very soul of our country is at stake,” he said.