Ryan in Iowa on HHS mandate: “This isn’t just a Catholic thing”

From the Des Moines Register: 

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s visit Monday night to a Catholic college in this historically Catholic city underscores the competition in this presidential race over a religious group whose political views cross party lines in key areas.

Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman who is Catholic and doesn’t hesitate to mention it on the campaign trail, rallied about 1,000 GOP supporters at Loras College on Monday to kick off a two-day bus tour through several of Iowa’s Mississippi River towns.

His comments covered many of the key issues in the race — the economy, government spending and foreign policy among them — but also emphasized his religious background and the distinctions Catholics have drawn between the candidacies of Democratic President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

While jobs and the economy have dominated the 2012 race and will continue to do so through Election Day, issues of particular note to some Catholics have been a partisan flashpoint.

The Obama administration’s actions on setting mandates for insurance coverage of contraception upset the Catholic Church and associated institutions, and led religious leaders and Republicans to accuse Obama and Democrats of infringing on religious liberty. Democrats’ support for legal abortion and same-sex marriage is also stridently opposed by many Catholics.

It was religious freedom that Ryan cited specifically in his remarks. Noting the presence of priests in the audience before him, Ryan accused Obama of presuming to “dictate to us how we exercise our rights.”

“As a Catholic, and I can tell you’re a Catholic, too,” he said, addressing a person in the crowd, “this isn’t just a Catholic thing. This is an American thing. This is our rights. This is our religious freedom.”

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Photo: Mary Chind/The Des Moines Register