Gov. Perry: Obama's "War On Religion" Includes "Not Allowing" Kids To Celebrate Christmas

December 08, 2011 1:05 pm ET — Brian Powell

During an appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom this morning, GOP presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) was asked to clarify a statement in his new campaign ad that accuses President Obama of waging a "war on religion." His answer was a rambling diatribe about "the left" suppressing the prayers of our nation's children and preventing them from celebrating Christmas. Host Bill Hemmer confronted Perry after airing a clip of the ad (watch after the jump):

HEMMER: What do you mean by that last phrase, "Obama's war on religion," Governor?

PERRY: Well if you sit down with the bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church, they can give you a very clear understanding of how this administration has gone after their charitable operations, on whether it's trafficking in individuals or whether it's those hospitals and those clinics that choose not to do abortions because they have a conscience reason not to and it's their belief and their faith not to give those abortions — so there's a clear attack on, um, the Catholics in particular from that perspective.

But when you think about the left in general, which the president is obviously a great part of — not allowing our kids to pray in school, not allowing, uh, to celebrate Christmas. I mean, the idea that the left continues to send the message of listen — we, our First Amendment right is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. And that's what the left has tried to do, is force all of us who are people of faith to basically say you can't be involved in the public arena. And that is just wrong.

The first part of Perry's explanation is a reference to a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services not to award a grant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after they refused to refer sex-trafficking victims to facilities offering a full range of women's health services, including contraceptives or abortion services. That prompted some Republicans to claim the Obama administration has a "bias against Catholics." Perry stretches this sentiment further by declaring that the president is at war with religion in general.

Perry goes on to back up this hyperbole with conservative fairy tales reminiscent of Fox News' religious fear-mongering and the network's fictional "War on Christmas." In a fit of paranoia, he accuses "the left" of preventing children from praying in school or celebrating Christmas. Of course, thanks to the Constitution's First Amendment, which states that the government may not prohibit the free exercise of religion, anyone in America is welcome to pray to whomever they please — and millions of Americans celebrate Christmas every year without fear that imaginary leftist bullies will board up their churches and burn down fields of Christmas trees.

However, the First Amendment also forbids government entities (i.e. public schools) from establishing a particular religion, and forcing students to endure organized prayer sessions has been found to be a violation of those founding principles. Given that Barack Obama was an infant at the time the Supreme Court's decision on school prayer was handed down in 1962, it seems improbable that he was influencing the American political landscape quite yet.

None of this is new, or even uncommon, knowledge. As a candidate for the nation's highest office, imparted with the duty to protect and uphold the Constitution, Perry knows — or should know — about the interplay between government and the establishment of religion in America. It seems that Perry's interpretation of the role of faith in public policy is either grossly irresponsible or grossly incompetent.

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