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The faith factor: Religion's new prominence in campaign 2012

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Birth control: division or distraction?

Ironically, it's not the red-hot issues of abortion or gay marriage that are clashing with people's rights to practice their own beliefs, but birth control – a big yawn for most Americans. Even for many practicing Catholics, birth control has long been a nonissue, according to the Rev. William Byron, a professor in Philadelphia at both Saint Joseph's University and Villanova University's Center for the Study of Church Management. Studies show birth control isn't often mentioned in confession – suggesting many do not consider it sinful – and is not a reason people give for not going to mass. But even if they're not conflicted by the issue of birth control, Catholics have plenty of interest in Obama's mandate purely on a religious liberties basis.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen says 54 percent of Catholics voted for Obama in 2008, while recent polling shows him getting just 35 percent of the Catholic vote if he runs against Romney this year.

"They either don't like government medicine, or they think the Obama administration wants to pick a fight with the church," observes Mr. Rasmussen.

As religious groups together raised the religious liberties flag over the birth control insurance mandate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told an audience at the February Conservative Political Action Conference: "In many ways, thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now."

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