U.S. politicians tend to give at least some respect to religious faith, usually trying to make only general religious statements in an effort to steer clear of controversy.
But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has gotten into precisely that sort of controversy.
Speaking at a gathering in Michigan, Romney said of the Obama administration, "Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda -- they have fought against religion."
Though the administration quickly fired back against Romney, who is a Mormon, the president's words and actions have at a minimum fostered a perception of hostility toward the religious beliefs of many Americans.
The administration recently ruled that under ObamaCare, even religiously affiliated schools, hospitals and charities would be forced to provide birth control as part of the medical insurance plans they offer to employees. That infuriated many Catholic-affiliated groups in particular because the Catholic Church teaches against contraception. But you need not be Catholic to see that the order directly threatened their freedom of religion by requiring them to fund something that violates their beliefs.
The president then made things worse by offering a phony compromise, but the schools and charities would still in effect wind up providing contraception, in violation of their principles.
Obama has also raised eyebrows with remarks that seem to show contempt for believers. At a 2008 fundraiser in San Francisco, then-candidate Obama suggested religion was a crutch for jobless Americans who have not been helped by the federal government.
"[I]t's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," he said.
So clearly, Obama has given not only his presidential rivals but many people cause for concern about his respect for religious Americans and their constitutional liberties.
And that is a legitimate issue for voters to consider.
But at the same time, it would be a mistake to allow such hot-button issues, however important, to reduce our focus on vital economic matters, such as continued high unemployment and the job-killing costs and regulations of ObamaCare. Those are the types of things that ultimately will be likely to sway a greater number of voters and that provide the best chance of defeating Obama on Election Day.