.- The U.S. Republican Party included a significant section on the importance of religious freedom in its new official platform, adopted on Aug. 28 in Tampa, Fla.
“We pledge to respect the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard the independence of their institutions from government,” stated the 2012 Republican platform, which was formally approved at the party’s national convention on Tuesday.
The party explained that its positions respect “God-given individual rights,” including the freedom “of every American to follow his or her beliefs.”
The importance of religious freedom can be seen in its prominent placement in the “first provision of the First Amendment,” the platform said.
It quoted the American founders, who believed that religion would be a critical element for the nation’s success because “democracy presupposes a moral people.”
The document also warned of current attempts to push religion “out of the public square,” seen most prominently in efforts to force religious institutions and individuals to abandon their deeply held beliefs regarding health care, marriage and abortion.
This “forcible secularization of religious and religiously affiliated organizations” has been made more dangerous by “the current Administration’s audacity in declaring which faith-related activities are, or are not, protected by the First Amendment,” it said.
Chief among religious freedom concerns in America is a federal mandate that requires employers to offer health insurance that includes contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The Republican Party officially approved language supporting “the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty.”
It further supported the right of citizens and faith based organizations to fully participate in public life without sacrificing their convictions, and it called for increased conscience protection for healthcare professionals.
The party also embraced protecting religious liberty overseas. It vowed to emphasize advocacy for this fundamental freedom and praised the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
In another area of concern to values voters, the 2012 Republican platform affirmed “the sanctity of human life” and endorsed a “human life amendment” to the U.S. Constitution.
The party opposed the public funding of organizations that perform and promote abortions, both domestically and internationally, as well as euthanasia, assisted suicide and early abortion-inducing drugs. It encouraged “a ban on human cloning” and called for stem cell research “without the destruction of embryonic human life.”
Arguing that health care coverage should be extended “to children before birth,” the platform also applauded legislative efforts to restrict abortion and promote adoption and other life-affirming options for those facing difficult pregnancies.
While explaining that “all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity,” the Republican Party also called for the defense and protection of marriage.
It acknowledged the critical role of marriage as an institution that provides “the foundation of civil society,” shown to be important for “the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.”
The platform expressed support for the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes and protects states from being forced to “recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions.”
Although the law was passed in 1996, the Obama administration announced in 2011 that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. Since “the future of marriage affects freedom,” the Republican Party voiced its support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to secure the definition of marriage.
Other planks in the GOP platform supported school choice through options such as vouchers and tax credits. The party encouraged “active prosecution against child pornography” and called for current laws on pornography “to be vigorously enforced.”