Mary Ann Glendon, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, defended presidential candidate Mitt Romney against claims that he required religious organizations to violate their consciences while he was governor of Massachusetts.
In a Feb. 9 statement, Glendon called it “preposterous” to think that Romney was not a strong defender of religious liberty.
“The truth is that Mitt Romney has been fighting assaults on religious freedom for a long time,” she said, adding that he had done so “at moments and in places where it was not popular, to say the least.”
Romney has criticized the Obama administration for its Jan. 20 announcement that a new mandate will soon require virtually all employers to purchase health insurance plans that include contraception, sterilization, and early abortion drugs at no cost to employees.
Despite widespread protest, the administration has refused to broaden the mandate’s narrow religious exemption, which applies only to organizations that exist to instill religious values and limit their employment and service to primarily members of their own faith.
Romney has recently pledged that if he is elected, he will repeal the mandate on his first day in office.
However, in recent days, he has been portrayed as hypocritical by both the Democratic party and his Republican competitors for what they say is a state mandate that mirrors the one recently introduced by the Obama administration.
On Feb. 8, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that it was “odd” for Romney to speak out against the federal mandate, arguing that it is “virtually identical to the one that was in place when he was governor of Massachusetts.”
Romney responded later that day, saying, “Mr. Carney needs to check his history.”
He said that the “provision was put in Massachusetts before I was governor” and that while in office, he “tried to have it removed.”
“I worked very hard to get the legislature to remove all of the mandated coverages including contraception,” he said.
Romney has also been criticized for a law that passed when he was in office that required Catholic hospitals to provide “emergency contraception,” which causes early abortions, to rape victims.
However he has responded that he vetoed this bill when it came to his desk. The legislature overrode his veto, and so the bill became law, but he had not approved it, he said.
Romney argued that as governor, he “steadfastly tried to honor and respect religious conscience.”
“I worked closely with the Archdiocese of Boston, met with Cardinal O’Malley from time to time, and did our very best to respect the religious feelings and beliefs of the people in my state,” he said.
While his opponents are skeptical and say he should have done more to fight the measures, Glendon believes that Romney “has shown backbone on every critical issue at every juncture when it counted.”
She explained that Romney filed a bill to defend the religious liberty of Catholic Charities in Massachusetts when a state law tried to force the organization to violate its beliefs by arranging adoptions for gay couples.
She also noted that Romney’s “courageous efforts in defense of religious freedom” led to him being chosen as a 2008 recipient of the Canterbury Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
“At this moment when religious liberty is under attack from many quarters, people of all faiths won’t find a more ardent or effective advocate than Mitt Romney,” Glendon said.