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The faith factor: Religion's new prominence in campaign 2012

Whose beliefs matter? From birth control to taxes, religion is playing an unprecedented role in campaign 2012.

By Correspondent / April 1, 2012

The Obama administration has asked the US Supreme Court to allow a veterans memorial cross to remain on federal land on Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, Calif. Supporters say it is a universal symbol for fallen soldiers; opponents say it's religious. This article is part of the cover project about the unprecedented role of religion in campaign 2012 appearing in the April 2, 2012 weekly edition of The Christian Science Monitor.

Mike Blake/REUTERS

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God hit the campaign trail way back in the summer of this election cycle. Rick Perry asked His blessings on President Obama while Michele Bachmann wondered if earthquakes were His wake-up call and Jon Huntsman Jr. tweeted that evolution is "part of His plan." Ron Paul invoked Old Testament warnings against anointing a king. Newt Gingrich hit hard on repentance and forgiveness. And apparent front-runner Mitt Romney said it would take an "act of God" for feisty Rick Santorum to win the nomination. Mr. Santorum, for his part, accused Mr. Romney of believing he's ordained by God to win.

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Republicans may have brought religion to the stump early this election season, but it was the Democrat in chief who really put God into play. In February, at a national prayer breakfast, Mr. Obama actually gave a scriptural rationale – "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required" (Luke) – for tax increases. But then he caused a firestorm among religious believers and sympathizers when he unleashed federal muscle against the very voters his Bible-quoting may have been designed to attract. Under Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, health insurance plans now must cover contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and what many consider abortion-inducing drugs, even for employees of Roman Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities, and other religious groups morally opposed to providing such services. A tiny, government-defined group of religious employers – mostly churches – is exempt from the mandate. As for the rest, the administration withheld from them the sort of conscience accommodations government historically offers in religious liberties situations.

In the process, the president himself created a campaign issue for the 2012 election and crystallized the intensifying and hardening political battle in America over whose beliefs matter.

Test your religious knowledge: Are you smarter than an atheist?

As never before, religion is an issue in the 2012 election, say experts.

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