Six former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican are accusing President Obama of violating religious freedom, as they call on Catholic voters to support Republican Mitt Romney for president.
The ex-envoys, who are all Catholic, include five ambassadors appointed by Republican presidents and one Democrat, former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, who was nominated by former President Bill Clinton.
In an open letter to "Fellow Catholics" this week, they denounced Mr. Obama for requiring Catholic institutions like hospitals and colleges to cover birth control and abortion pills through their health insurance. They called the regulation a violation of the religious freedom guarantee in the First Amendment and an "assault" on Catholic pro-life beliefs.
Mr. Romney, a Mormon, supports the Catholic position, they said.
"While the current administration has brought our first freedom under direct assault by imposing government mandates that completely disregard religious conscience, Gov. Romney believes that freedom to live one's faith is essential to liberty and human fulfillment," they said.
The former ambassadors also criticized Mr. Obama for supporting homosexual marriage and for showing "sympathy for the pro-abortion lobby."
"Where the stakes are highest — in the defense of life, liberty and human dignity — we have a duty to act that is greater and more urgent than allegiance to any political party," they said in their appeal to Catholic voters.
In 2008, Catholics supported Mr. Obama over Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona by a margin of 54 percent to 45 percent. Mr. Obama's support among Catholics has slipped since the health insurance requirements arose, but they still remains high.
The six ambassadors are national co-chairmen of Catholics for Romney. In addition to Mr. Flynn, who was ambassador from 1993 to 1997, the others are Frank Shakespeare (1986 to 1989), Tom Melady (1989 to 1993), Jim Nicholson (2001 to 2005), Francis Rooney (2005 to 2008), and Mary Ann Glendon (2008 to 2009).
Red River Crooner
The Japanese ambassador traveled to North Dakota to promote trade ties but could not resist singing a tribute to the Roughrider State and its iconic Red River Valley.
A search for a YouTube video of Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki singing "Red River Valley" turned up nothing, but news reports say his rendition of the classic cowboy song was well received in Bismarck, the state capital. He dedicated the tune to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who was born in the lush valley that runs through parts of North Dakota, Minnesota and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
One has to imagine the suave envoy from Tokyo singing: "Come and sit by my side if you love me / Do not hasten to bid adieu / Just remember the Red River Valley / And the cowboy who loved you so true."
Mr. Fujisaki said his first impression of North Dakota came from the dark comedy/crime film "Fargo," but North Dakotans pointed out that the movie, which made fun of Midwestern accents, was filmed in Minnesota.
At one point in a news conference, Mr. Fujisaki held up a hand-written sign that expressed his feelings about North Dakota. It read: "Dynamic energy. Amber waves of grain. Kind people. Opportunity. Trade. Abundant resources."
Bilateral trade between North Dakota and Japan, which currently is valued at $31.1 million, has more than doubled over the past decade, according to state figures.
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