- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dear President-elect Barack Obama, I know you’re kind of taken up these days with forming a Cabinet and finding new schools for your daughters, but you might want to know that many evangelicals and Catholics are preparing for a pitched battle.

With you.

Yes, it’s fundraising time for the Family Research Council, I learned this morning while checking my e-mail. DONATE NOW was in large letters on the mass e-mail from FRC President Tony Perkins.

“Most Americans still disagree with the newly elected leaders in Washington, D.C., on issues of faith, family, and freedom,” it said.

The 80-person FRC staff, it said, has the tools to deal with “the most radical, left-wing president and Congress in the history of our Republic,” but it could use a few more shekels to help things along.

Before you shrug this off as overkill, I heard the same sentiments, albeit in slightly more measured tones, at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) this week in Baltimore. These 223 men are the spiritual leaders of 67 million Catholics — one-quarter of the electorate — so you might want to listen.

Their chief concern is the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a piece of legislation simmering in Congress that would overturn dozens of state laws mandating parental consent on abortions and limiting Medicaid funding of abortions.

It also would open the door to partial-birth abortions, do away with informed consent for women considering the procedure, make it impossible for doctors and hospitals to refuse performing abortions. Well, you get the picture.

You told a Planned Parenthood gathering in July 2007 that the “first thing” you’d do as president is sign FOCA into law, and that speech is all over YouTube.

The bishops already were thinking out loud this week what they’d do in the face of such a law.

Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki said the bishops must be prepared to close Catholic hospitals if they are forced to perform abortions. Selling such hospitals would not do, he added, because that would merely transfer the guilt to a different party.

Because the nation’s 615 Catholic hospitals constitute one-sixth of our health care system, closing these institutions would be a very big deal.

And then there was St. Louis Bishop Robert Hermann, who talked of being willing to die to prevent abortions.

“If we are willing to die tomorrow,” he added, “then we should be willing to, until the end of our lives, take all kinds of criticism for opposing this horrible infanticide.”

Bishops dying for their faith? Like the scores of bishop-martyrs in the second and third centuries A.D.?

Reporters covering the USCCB this week heard hints that not all bishops are on board with this sort of rhetoric, but the fact that such speeches are being made should give you some pause.

I’m not saying all religious folks are talking this way. Sojourners magazine has a “God’s Politics” blog with entries from a mixture of 20 conservative and liberal religious leaders offering you advice on social justice issues. Several of them admonish you to fulfill a campaign promise to reduce America’s annual tally of 2.1 million abortions.

How you plan to do that and fulfill your promise to Planned Parenthood is something people of all religious persuasions are waiting to see.

Julia Duin’s Stairway to Heaven column runs Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected] times.com.

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