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Joe Biden tries to hit Trump on religious freedom. The administration he served in tried to force nuns to pay for birth control.


'The Obama administration determined religious freedom to be a worthy sacrifice on the altar of progressivism'

Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden says that we need a president who respects religious freedom, but the administration where he held the No. 2 position came under repeated fire for violating that fundamental right.

In a short social media ad released Wednesday, Biden is seen talking with a man who thanks him for making remarks against President Donald Trump's so-called "Muslim ban," which is the travel suspension the administration placed on multiple countries due to national security concerns.

Biden responds that he "was against it from the beginning" and calls the policy "ridiculous." A message then wipes over the screen, saying, "We need a president who respects religious freedom."

While the religious freedom-based criticisms on the travel ban have indeed been widespread, the Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the administration's policy was "expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices" and noted that the text of the proclamation "says nothing about religion."

But if Biden really does want to make religious freedom a campaign issue, he's probably going to have a lot to explain from his past job as Barack Obama's vice president.

After all, Biden's message may come as ironic to those who remember the Obama administration's yearslong legal fight against the Little Sisters of the Poor over the Obamacare contraception mandate, where the administration Biden served in tried to force an order of Catholic nuns — in addition to other religious organizations — to pay for birth control despite their religious beliefs to the contrary.

And in addition to the contraception mandate, other Obama administration actions took considerable criticism from religious freedom advocates.

In the waning days of the last administration, Andrew Walker and John Wester of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission pointed out several different Obama-era actions that conflicted with the conscience rights of traditional believers, many of which were over matters of sexual orientation and transgender policy. These ranged from an executive order affecting the hiring practices of federal contractors to the administration's attempt to affect transgender bathroom policies in public schools.

"Religious conservatives are often portrayed as angry aggressors in the culture war," the two wrote at National Review. "Nothing could be further from the truth, as evident in the case of the Obama administration's progressive assaults upon religious liberty. The Obama administration determined religious freedom to be a worthy sacrifice on the altar of progressivism."

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