The Romney campaign has insinuated for months that President Obama is hostile toward religion, but they appear to be finished with mincing words. A new ad, titled Be Not Afraid, says that Obama has declared a “war on religion” and uses images and words of Pope John Paul II. Watch the ad here.

Obviously Romney is trying to appeal to Catholic voters and those who sympathize with US bishops who feel that religious liberty is under attack. Co-opting images of John Paul II for an American political campaign should be offensive to Catholics of all stripes. Love him or not, John Paul II stood by his convictions and was unafraid to articulate even unpopular positions. Romney, on the other hand, twists and turns to appease whichever base he believes will help him fulfill his ambitions at the moment.

Accusing the president of waging a war on religion is irresponsible and untrue. Perhaps there are some issues that the Obama Administration should work through with Catholic leaders, but hyperbole like Romney’s is disingenuous and offensive. If you want to understand what a war on religion looks like, read John Allen’s piece documenting atrocities around the world committed by government’s on religious people. The Romney campaign should retract the “war on religion” comment if it wants to maintain credibility with Catholic voters, who at the moment favor Obama anyway.

Comments

JIM MCCREA | 8/9/2012 - 4:44pm
Quoting JPII is a good reason NOT to vote for Romney!
ed gleason | 8/10/2012 - 5:33pm
David P says' " The only President in my lifetime who I believe actually had a spiritual pulse was W."
you leave out Jimmy Carter who actually did Christian ministry? Of course Romney did ministry but some don't call it Christian . You must be a lot younger than I thought or your dead wrong.
Tom Maher | 8/10/2012 - 10:55am
Carlos Orozco # 13

I have to agree with you.  Whatever happened to the benign "Hope and Change'" guy?  The guy who was suppossed to be so transformative of American politcs has shown himself over the last four years and now during the election campaign to be quite capable of being down right ugly.   Who is this guy anyway?  Why would he ever deliberately attack religion if actually believed in and respected religion?   Why is it that the President does not respect First Amendment Consitutional rights of freedom of religion?  However not supporting the First Amendment our fundemental law of the land is an war on religion and the U.S. Constitution.  This is not change that we can believe in or find acceptable. 
Amy Ho-Ohn | 8/10/2012 - 7:58am
"Accusing the president of waging a war on religion is irresponsible and untrue."

I disagree. I think it's a bizarre exaggeration, but it is well within the usual range of political hyperbole. Both parties say all sorts of things in 30 second political ads; the genre does not encourage nuance.

Personally, I am not much concerned about the changes in Romney's positions. It is not a crime for a politician to adopt the positions of those he represents. Romney the Candidate is obliged to support things Romney the Man doesn't much care about. So what?

It seems obvious that Romney the Man does not have strongly held opinions on social questions. His main interest is in fiscal and economic policy, which is exactly what the country needs the President to be interested in right now. He also happens to be extremely well-qualified to make fiscal and economic policy decisions, whereas the incumbent's credibility is, let's just say, somewhat impaired. Romney the Candidate allows his party to decide what the party positions on social issues should be.
Kevin Murphy | 8/10/2012 - 3:08am
President Obama purposefully, for political purposes, picked this fight with religious institutions, and the Catholic Church in particular.   Not content to divide the country along religious grounds, he has also split the nation along class and gender lines.   I believe he is not only waging a war against religion, but also civility and, as indicated by his scurrilous charges against Romney, objective truth.   Obama will destroy whoever gets in his way, and America Magazine should think carefully before carrying any water for him.
Stan Chaz | 8/9/2012 - 11:53pm
Romney’s new ad prominently pictures the last Catholic
Pope, Pope John Paul II, and quotes the Pope as saying
“Be not Afraid”.
Perhaps you’re trying to rally the troops Mitt.
(and garner some posthumous endorsements?)
.....BUT you probably don’t realize that.
the Pope was merely quoting Jesus Christ.
Dear Mitt, it was ALSO Jesus Christ who said:
“I tell you the truth,it is hard for a rich man
to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you,
it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”.
Hey Mitt, aren’t you kinda glad you’re NOT a Christian?
NOT EVEN CLOSE.
Carlos Orozco | 8/9/2012 - 11:01pm
The term "War on Religion" is exagerated and reminds me of the manipulative "War on Women" narrative the Obamites used against the Catholic bishops some months ago for defending traditional Church teachings. "Attack On Religion", however, in my opinion, would be correct. Nobody should cry foul because paytime has arrived to a President that has fought to impose morning-after pills and sterilization coverage on employers (Catholic or not), directly or indirectly, violating constitutional protections.

We should not forget that President Obama's campaign has been anything but a model of civility. I cannot remember a more ugly campaign from a man seeking reelection to the White House: not condemning an ad accusing Romney of beign responsible for the death of a woman is simply outrageous. This is not a "It's morning in America again" campaign, simply because the President has NOTHING to run on. Hope and change talk would result in an explosion of laughter at a time when war-priestess Hillary Clinton is preparing yet another imperialist war in the Middle East.

Finally, with respect to the use of the image of John Paul II in the Romney ad, I don't think the blessed native of Poland would be offended. His prophetic denunciation of the Culture of Death inspired many to raise their voices against this modern evil.
Joshua DeCuir | 8/9/2012 - 9:09pm
To be more accurate, I guess I should have said "read your social encyclicals" instead of "gotten the memo".  
Joshua DeCuir | 8/9/2012 - 9:05pm
"It's almost as though you saw the Devil incarnate in the Republican party and its presidential candidate and feel you have a moral obligation to tell your readers to vote Democratic or imperil their immortal souls."

David - haven't you gotten the memo? Republicanism/conservatism is THE original sin. 
David Smith | 8/9/2012 - 7:56pm
Michael, I don't get it. How can America and Commonweal convince themselves that it's perfectly OK to shill blatantly for the Democratic party?  You don't even try to be balanced, even handed, or thoughtful.  It's almost as though you saw the Devil incarnate in the Republican party and its presidential candidate and feel you have a moral obligation to tell your readers to vote Democratic or imperil their immortal souls.

The odd thing about this is that by being so transparently Manichean, you're ruling out any possibility of reaching the misguided I'd think you'd want to convert. Or perhaps you simply see yourselves as a cheering section for the good guys, content to keep their hate hot and let the rest of us freeze in hell.
Amy Ho-Ohn | 8/13/2012 - 10:00am
Actually Obama's attitude to the Church is even more devastating and diabolical than all of these bizarre right wing conspiracy theories put together:

He just doesn't give a damn. He has barely noticed the existence of the Catholic Church and he doesn't think it's relevant to anything.

All those weird conspiracy theories are just delusions of relevance.
david power | 8/9/2012 - 5:52pm
Jim, Keep your wig on.
What I meant was that he does not seem to me to be particularly religious ,although he sometimes claims to be religious.
He even invoked his christianity as a reason for voting for gay marriage.
I know where you stand on that issue but don't confuse what I am saying.I do a good enough job of that myself.
The only President in my lifetime who I believe actually had a spiritual pulse was W.
Of course that is not the criteria for judging who is to be a president.But when catholic writers roll in indignity at the use or misuse of religion for political purposes a snicker comes to my gob at the innocence of it all.
Or the Faux-innocence of it. 
I think rather than the Bible or the book of Mormon Romney would probably prefer Fortune monthly and the Prez would probably prefer "Obama:an intimate portrait"

:)
C Walter Mattingly | 8/12/2012 - 6:24am
President Obama's strategy seems to be to stave off/starve off religious institutions so that their participation in the civic life of the nation is reduced and that of secular humanism, controlled and directed by the federal government, can rise and fill the vacuum. The goal of the "war," so to speak, is the diminishment of the role of religion in the life of the nation. Since the Catholic Church is the largest and perhaps most influential religious institution in the country, the president focuses on the church.

His three major moves to this end have been: 1/ to cut off its source of funds by restricting the deductiblility of charitable deductions; 2/ a somewhat desperate, and fortunately for our most needy children collapsing, attempt to deny vouchers to enable these children to attend good schools that will provide them a good chance at graduation; and 3/ to deny the free expression of religion by forcing religious institutions, especially the Catholic Church, to act against their religious convictions. This last action is opposed by most Catholics and was an action taken directly against the commitment made to Father Jenkins at Notre Dame when Fr Jenkins went out of his way to develop good relations with President Obama with his controversial invitation to the university. President Obama there committed to go the extra yard to accomodate the Church in exercising its religious expression in civic life.  Fr Jenkins was, unfortunately, duped by the president, who has proven his lack of integrity to his word time and again. In short, he has acted about as you would expect any secular humanist to act in this regard.

Whether this effort by President Obama to diminish the influence of religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular in the civic life of the country is properly characterized as "war" by the Romney campaign is subject to debate. But the inclusion of John Paul II seems quite appropriate here. Does anyone doubt what John Paul's position would have been on President Obama's anti-Church agenda, from his promotion of abortion to gay marriage to forcing the Church to fund sterilizations, birth control, and abortifacients in its charitable ministries? 
T BLACKBURN | 8/9/2012 - 5:11pm
First Romney goes to Israel and praises the culture of a country founded by East European socialists (!) who built their culture through collective farms which they misleadingly called kibbutzes. Then he goes to Poland where he hobnobs with a former labor union (!) president. And brags about it in this ad. Are you sure this guy is a Republican?
david power | 8/11/2012 - 6:00am
Ed,
Guilty of the first in this case.Reagan was the first President in my lifetime.
Joshua DeCuir | 8/9/2012 - 2:45pm
I guess when you write: "Romney, on the other hand, twists and turns to appease whichever base he believes will help him fulfill his ambitions at the moment" you just expect readers to ignore the flip-flops from the President.  You know, like saying that as a Christian he couldn't support gay marriage, then of course saying that as a Christian he had to (which in fairness brings him back to the position he held before he was against gay marriage).  Or his flip-flop on  Guantanamo Bay.  Or his flip-flop on Guantanamo Bay.  Or his flip-flop on immigration.  Or his flip-flop on a cadillac tax on health insurance plans that he attacked McCain for in 2008.  And of course that ignores the HHS mandate itself - which he assured Card. Dolan to his face in the Oval Office wouldn't be offensive to Catholic institutions, and which of course was.

It seems to me a voter can have any number of reasons to vote for or against either candidate this cycle, but ideological steadiness is a pretty thin platform for either, no?


JIM MCCREA | 8/9/2012 - 4:47pm
"I admire Obama in many ways but could never imagine him praying."

And where in the Constitution is that a requirement for the President of the United States?

Would you say the same thing about a President who is an avowed secular humanist, an agnostic or an atheist?
Joshua DeCuir | 8/9/2012 - 2:28pm
"Accusing the president of waging a war on religion is irresponsible and untrue."

But I guess accusing your opponent of causing a woman's death from cancer is a-ok, huh?
Tom Maher | 8/9/2012 - 3:32pm
The new book "The Amateur" by Ed Klein defines President Obama central politcal problem: President Obama as the leader of all Americans is an amateur who consistantly lacks sound politcal and executive judgement.  Accordingly he gets himself and the country into a series of messes in economic policy, forign relations and gerenal dealing with the expectations of the American public.

The fact is Prseident Obama is is badly mishandling  the forced imposition of the HHS mandate on religious insitutions, during an election year at that.  His original White House advisers strongly urged him to not insist on imposing the HHS mandate on religous insitutions but these were overruled by other more partisan advisors.  But President Obama as the Chief executive failed on his own to recognize the fundemental expectation of Freedom of Religion in America.  

As the Romeny ad asks at the end "When religious freedom is threatened who do you want to stand with"?   Many voters of all religions will answer not with President Obama's unusual, divisive, and delusionally anti-religious policies.
Thomas Farrell | 8/9/2012 - 1:10pm
The ad shows that Mitt Romney wants to appeal to conservative American Catholics to vote for him. That's not exactly surprising.
david power | 8/9/2012 - 1:12pm
A war on Religion in the long run would be good for Religion.
If challenged to come to come up with better answers to human dillemas about existence and meaning Christians, and all the other Religious people, would eventually be more convincing  .
I admire Obama in many ways but could never imagine him praying.
His voters want certain things as do Romney's and they intend to give it to them.
The Author here is writing from a particular slant that favours Obama and then you will have George Weigel writing from a slant that will favour Romney and all over America people will be lining up for the role of Cop/cowboy or Robber/Indian .
If Obama feeds the lions next week you can be sure America will omit to frame  it that way.If Romney stokes the fires you can be sure that Deal Hudson will invoke the name of Thomas More.
It is just a game.
Any Truth that does not make us uncomfortable is probably not a truth..
Vote Ron Paul!