Obama's opening shot in his war on religion was his comment at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008 that "bitter" Americans in small towns were clinging to "religion" out of frustration. Contained within that one remark was the seed of secularist bigotry toward the religious that would come to full and ugly flower in his first term.
Paul Ryan, casting himself as the "Catholic deer hunter," reminded voters on the campaign trail this week of Obama's antipathy for the religious. Speaking at a Pennsylvania steel mill on Tuesday, he said, "Remember this other time when he said people want to cling to their guns and religion? Hey, I'm a Catholic deer hunter, I'm happy to be clinging to my guns and religion."
Ryan's remark builds on a theme that the Romney campaign unveiled in an ad earlier this month about Obama's "war on religion." That ad drew upon images of Romney's recent trip to Poland, where he recalled Pope John Paul II's struggle against godless ideologies. "Be not afraid," said Romney, repeating the words that the late Holy Father invoked against the communists. The ad highlighted that "President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith."
The ad then asked: "When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?"
Obama's allies on the left immediately denounced the ad, calling it a vicious distortion of the record. But it is not. The record is replete with examples of Obama's war on religious freedom. Indeed, Romney and Ryan should not only keep running this ad but even broaden it beyond the ObamaCare contraceptive mandate. That is the most obvious and egregious violation of the American people's religious liberty, but there have been many more in Obama's first term.
Romney and Ryan could mention the attempt by Obama's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to dictate employment policy at a Missouri Lutheran church and school -- a stance so aggressively secularist that the Supreme Court struck it down 9 to 0. Even Elena Kagan couldn't believe her ears when Obama's Justice Department lawyer, Leondra Kruger, tried to argue that the church's choice of ministers and teachers did not enjoy First Amendment protections and thus the EEOC had the right to force it to rehire a minister/teacher fired for insubordination.
Kagan told Kruger that she found "it amazing that you think that neither the Free Exercise Clause nor the Establishment Clause has anything to say about a church's relationship with its own employees."
One of Obama's EEOC commissioners, Chai Feldblum, a self-described radical gay-rights activist, has even argued that the traditional understanding of "belief liberty" is an outmoded concept. "Protecting one group's identity liberty may, at times, require that we burden others' belief liberty. This is an inherent and irreconcilable reality of our complex society," Feldblum has written.
Romney and Ryan could also note Obama's campaign to drive traditionally Christian chaplains and privates out of the military. As quoted by the Washington Times in 2010, Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, the Army's deputy chief of staff in charge of personnel, made it clear that Christians who object to Obama's gay-rights agenda are no longer welcome in the military: "Unfortunately, we have a minority of service members who are still racists and bigoted and you will never be able to get rid of all of them... But these people opposing this new policy [in favor of openly serving gays] will need to get with the program, and if they can't, they need to get out."
Admiral Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a similar comment to a military chaplain opposed to the elimination of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. "If you cannot get in line, resign your commission," he told the Christian chaplain. In a second Obama term, expect Christian chaplains and privates to be court-martialed.
Romney and Ryan could highlight as well Obama's secularizing of the judiciary. He is stacking the courts with judges who view the First Amendment through an atheistic prism. As Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has put it, all of Obama's judicial nominees seem to share the "ACLU chromosome." Perhaps the most grimly comic example of Obama's style of judge is Michael Urbanski, who sits on a federal court in Virginia, where he recently ordered that the Ten Commandments be edited down to Six Commandments to exclude the ones that mention God.
Obama's aside at that 2008 San Francisco fundraiser was no accident. It reflected his deeply ingrained philosophy of secularism that sees religion as an "opium of the people," to use Marx's phrase, that the president thinks bigger and bigger government will one day wean them off. Romney's Catholic deer hunter will bag many voters if he keeps targeting it.