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Of presidents and prime ministers who talk of faith

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Dozens of evangelical leaders, for example, have lined up behind anti-abortion Rick Santorum to be the GOP nominee, even though their once-powerful influence in politics has waned. In much of the media, meanwhile, questions are being raised about the ability of Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“Mormons”), to attract the votes of other Christians. And the Republican candidates have directly spoken to churches.

Last month, Obama stirred up a religious storm with a new health-care regulation. He insisted that religious-based hospitals that serve the public must provide women with access to birth-control methods, including the “morning after” abortion pill. In church pulpits last Sunday, Roman Catholic leaders spoke out strongly against the rule. They now want a religious exemption in Obama’s health-care law. The bishops say that their Christian mission to heal the sick and to follow their conscience should not be violated by a government dictate to dispense contraception and to support abortion.

Even liberal Catholics, many of whom differ from the church’s views on contraception, say Obama went too far in threatening hefty fines against a private group that doesn’t serve his view on how to meet society’s health needs.

This church-state controversy may color a big Supreme Court decision. The court will likely rule by June on whether the health law’s mandate for Americans to buy medical insurance violates individual liberty, such as a person’s reliance solely on prayer for healing.

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