CLEVELAND -- Prayer has sustained Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul D. Ryan through his long days of campaigning; he keeps a rosary in his pocket and says the serenity prayer every morning.
That’s what Ryan told a tele-town-hall organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition Sunday night as he made a closing appeal to faith-based voters two days before the election.
“As you can imagine, we pray throughout the day. ... It keeps us humble, it keeps us strong, it keeps us in a good place,” Ryan said in answer to a question about how his faith has gotten him through the campaign. “I’m one of those people who don’t think you can separate your faith from your public life as a public official and your private life.”
Faith-based voters are expected to play a bigger role in this election because of activity of groups such as the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which are trying to energize voters around issues of abortion and religious freedom. Ralph Reed, the founder of the coalition, said on the call that his group alone has distributed 30 million voter guides and 24 million pieces of mail and has made 23 million get-out-the-vote calls. That could make a difference in swing states such as Ohio and Iowa, which have strong religious communities.
“We think we’re going to change the trajectory of not just this election but of American history for the foreseeable future,” Reed said, adding that he thought evangelical voters who didn’t vote in 2008 would get to the polls this year. Faith-based groups have advertised in newspapers and online, criticizing President Obama’s positions on abortion and gay marriage.
The Ryan call was partly fundraising pitch for the Faith and Freedom Coalition and partly a way for him to reach the evangelical voters who were enthused when he was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Though much of his message came directly from his stump speech, he talked specifically about the Health and Human Services requirement that religiously affiliated employers such as schools, hospitals and charities provide employees with contraception coverage.
“My church is suing the federal government – Catholic churches, hospitals and charities, are now suing the federal government just to maintain and preserve our religious freedoms,” he said. “We should not have to sue our own government to keep our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.”
President Obama passed the healthcare bill although he knew he needed to be reelected, Ryan said, which doesn’t portend well for another term.
“Imagine what he would do if he got actually reelected and never had to face voters ever again,” he said. “It just puts a chill down my spine.”
Ryan added that he and Romney “understand the stakes” of the election, particularly as it relates to Supreme Court appointees. Many evangelicals were disappointed when Justice John G. Roberts Jr. allowed Obama’s healthcare bill to stand, because he had been appointed by President George W. Bush, who had strong backing from the evangelical community.
Ryan’s positions on prayer and religious values should come as no surprise – he has sponsored antiabortion bills and was widely praised as a choice by conservative and religious leaders concerned about Romney’s stance on social issues. But it may be surprising to some that he even gave prayer credit for his kids’ homework.
“We brought their homework on the road with us for this week, and they’re just doing a great job. It’s because so many people around this country are praying for us and are offering their prayers,” he said.