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By Geroge Kane

george head smallThe Romney campaign insists that the 2012 presidential election will be a referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy, but the religious right is not sitting it out. In the first post-Citizen’s United presidential campaign, its political organizations are planning campaign spending that will dwarf their efforts in every previous election.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, led by Ralph Reed, the first Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, has budgeted $10 million for a major 2012 election push to turn out the religious right. This coalition boasts 500,000 members, and chapters in 30 states. In August it mailed out four million voter registration cards to new evangelical and Catholic voters.

Another conservative Christian political action organization, Concerned Women for America, has already spent $6 million on campaign ads. Yet another, Let Freedom Ring, claims as members 2000 pastors who are working on voter registration. Let Freedom Ring is encouraging these pastors to be more bold and aggressive to lead their flocks into the Republican voting bloc. They, too, are planning to run millions of dollars in campaign ads.

American Crossroads was created by George W. Bush’s political strategist, Karl Rove. It is coordinating other religious right organizations to develop strategy, and it is proving to be a champion fund-raiser. Rove claims that the organizations in this syndicate will together raise $1 billion for the campaign.

Evangelical voters, who historically made up as much as 25 percent of the overall electorate, can be especially important in determining the presidential vote in swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. During the primary campaign, evangelicals were cool to Romney as they do not consider Mormons to be Christians. Ironically, Obama is the only Protestant on either major party national ticket, as both Biden and Ryan are Catholics. That has made no impression on evangelicals, however, as the polls show that most of them think that Obama is a Muslim.

If Obama had any hope that he could attract some evangelical voters with his talk of the importance of religion in his life and family, he surely realized he had lost any chance when he announced that he had “evolved” to support marriage equality for same-sex couples. That remains a culture-wars issue on which evangelicals are united in opposition.

But surely Obama’s campaign strategists knew that evangelicals would never hear him out, no matter what he said or did. You might think that some of them would at least like the Affordable Care Act, the principal domestic policy accomplishment of the Obama Administration. After all, Christians need health insurance as much as anyone else. But Richard Land, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, an arm of the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, said evangelicals "want to bury Obamacare in a lead coffin with a stake through its heart and cover its grave with garlic." Why? He explains that it is, "a codification and personification (sic) of pro-abortion policies."

Of course, the program in fact provides no government funding for abortions. Today, when most workers and their families are covered by employer-provided policies, a large majority of those policies provide abortion coverage. But, despite elaborate safeguards to enforce segregation of funds to ensure that abortion coverage must be paid for entirely by the employer and the insured, Republicans cannot be satisfied. They insist that any government payments at all to insurance companies that provide abortion coverage amounts to paying for abortions with tax dollars. And, of course, this is red meat for the evangelicals. The only national health care plan that would be acceptable, on this count, is one that would legally prohibit all insurance policies to provide any coverage for abortions.

Minnesota Atheists does not advocate any health care program, as it is not an issue of separation of church and state. Neither do we endorse any candidate for elective office. We do urge members to read our public policy positions and invite them to support candidates who take congruent positions on these issues.

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