2012-09-06 09:50:49

US electoral politics in high gear

Former US President Bill Clinton’s nominating speech of incumbent President Barack Obama as his party’s official candidate for a second term in office got a rousing reception at the second day of the Democratic Party Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Wednesday evening. Clinton spoke of the importance of the decision facing the whole US citizenry this coming November. “When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain,” said Clinton, “the politics of constant conflict may be good, but what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world - what works in the real world is cooperation.” Clinton went on to say, “One of the main reasons we ought to re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to constructive cooperation.”

The need for constructive cooperation is something the Catholic bishops of the United States have also recognized – though they have expressed frustration with some of President Obama’s policies, which they say unconstitutionally restrict the free exercise of religion. The Bishops have been most concerned with a rule issued by the Health and Human Services Department (which has the task of implementing the President’s controversial health care reform legislation). The HHS mandate requires all employers to provide full coverage of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs in their employee health plans.

Though the rule does contain an exemption for religious institutions, most Catholic schools, hospitals, and social outreach agencies would not qualify as religious institutions under the terms of it. In a May, 2012 appearance on the “CBS This Morning” programme, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said he thinks there are some in the Obama administration who are not sensitive to the concerns of Catholics and others regarding the HHS mandate. “I worry,” said Dolan, “that members of [Obama's] administration might not particularly understand our horror at the restricted nature of the exemption that they're giving us.” Cardinal Dolan went on explain the source of the bishops’ and others’ concern. “For the first time we can remember,” he said, “a bureau of the federal government seems to be radically intruding on what the [definition] of a Church is.” Religious liberty, however, has not been a major campaign talking point for either candidate.

Cardinal Dolan is scheduled to offer a prayer of blessing at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday evening – after offering a benediction at last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa. Listen: RealAudioMP3

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