Paul “Mickey” Pohl is a lawyer at the Pittsburgh office of Jones Day, the world’s largest law firm. He served as head of the firm’s Pittsburgh office and recently won the St. Thomas More Society award for exemplary service by a Catholic lawyer. He and his firm represented Bishop Zubik and Catholic Charities pro bono (for free) in the HHS Contraceptive Mandate case that went to the US Supreme Court earlier this year. In our nation’s highest court he (and I) witnessed firsthand how close our religious freedom rights are to extinction. Supreme Court Justices, of course, are appointed by the President of the United States. Please consider his essay below in casting your vote for President on Nov. 8. * * * On Tuesday, October 18, 2016 8:30 AM, Paul Pohl wrote: I thought you would be interested in this essay I wrote last week. Best regards, Mickey Dear Friends: Many of you know that for more than 4 years, I have been one of the leaders of the team representing religious organizations, mostly Catholic (including Bishop David Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh’s Catholic Diocese) in his case which was consolidated in the U.S. Supreme Court with the case brought by The Little Sisters of the Poor and cases brought by others, against the government over Obamacare’s “contraception mandate.” A great number of religious groups of all denominations filed “friend of the Court” briefs supporting our position that while contraception is and could be available to all who choose to use it, government regulators should not force religious objectors (like The Little Sisters or Catholic Charities) to participate in the delivery of goods and services which offend their religious beliefs. The work I have done in these cases , studying the guarantee of “free exercise of religion” in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act , has caused me to read and often to investigate what the Obama administration’s views are of traditional Christian religious beliefs, religion, and especially Catholicism. I have also tried to gather as much information as I can about what Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, their running mates and their respective parties think about religion, Catholicism and traditional Christian religions (which the media often mocks as Evangelicals, “Bible thumpers” or “the religious right”). I am a Catholic. Many of my friends know that, like many Catholics who are the children or grandchildren of immigrants, I grew up in a heavily unionized factory town where almost every street corner had a Catholic church and school, a bar, an ethnic club and, very often, bowling alleys. Many of us had relatives that were policemen, firemen, coal miners and almost every family had someone who had served or was serving in the military. And, we immigrants and the grandchildren of immigrants were almost all Democrats. We cheered and cried when JFK was elected President. Many of you are now asking me who I am going to vote for. In this email, I am going to explain to you and present you with evidence to show why I have concluded that Hillary Clinton and today’s Democratic Party is anti-Catholic, and no friends of traditional, observant Christians. No one wants a theocracy. No one wants a single denomination imposing its views on government or Congress making any law respecting the establishment of religion as was often done in the 13 colonies. What we want is what the first Amendment guarantees: that all of us are allowed the free exercise of religion. The Democrats and Hillary Clinton, as the evidence detailed below shows, want to keep us from espousing our traditional beliefs because they think them harmful to their vision of what is good for the country. They have been very careful in trying to hide their views to hold the vote of traditional Christians. It is time to expose them. Like so many others, I believe there is a God, an afterlife and that there are moral absolutes. Some things are wrong. God made rules and they come to us in the Old and New Testament and through our 2000 year old Christian traditions and beliefs. I believe God made men and women. I believe that there is such a thing as sin, and forgiveness. I think people should be married before they have children and parents are primarily responsible for raising their kids – not the government, as Hillary espouses in her book “It Takes a Village.” I think abortion is the taking of a human life. I happen to believe that marriage is a sacrament involving one man, one woman and God and that sex is not a sport or dating game. When sex is detached from the reproductive act and the intimacy of the marriage bond, it is not right. I do not judge anyone. I just happen to have my own beliefs as a Christian, shared by millions of others for 2000 years. I know that there are doctrinal differences between denominations and I know that not everyone in our wonderful nation shares my beliefs. Many of my friends clearly do not. I respect and love atheists and my gay friends even though I may not agree with them on things that I believe are fundamental to my existence and, by the way, in my view, good for our society. Just because I may not approve of certain lifestyles, I am not homophobic and should not be ridiculed or called a “hater” because of my beliefs. I try to love and show compassion to all; I concede that I, like all humans, am a sinner. What this essay is about, however, is that I should not have elected officials or those trying to get elected telling me that my sincerely held religious beliefs are not going to be respected , need to be changed by government and, even worse, that I and my children should not be able to espouse them in the public square. Please read on to see what is going on. I am not trying to jam my religious beliefs down on anyone much less the nation; I just want to be free to exercise them and talk about them. I respect those who may not share them. Let me say at the outset that I am not getting paid to write this and, if you find my reasoning relevant or persuasive I urge you to circulate this to every traditional Christian and Catholic you know. Let me also say at the outset that I have never met Donald Trump. I find much of his speech and action boorish and offensive -- but after a lot of fact checking and reflection – I am going to vote for him because he and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (whom I am told is a devout Catholic) are more likely to respect the free exercise of religion set forth in the First Amendment to the Constitution and are going to give us much better judges than Hillary Clinton would appoint. You live with a bad president for four or 8 years, but a federal judge gets appointed for life. Obama has appointed very few observant Catholics or pro-life Christians to key positions and to judgeships. He can point to some who might say they were raised Catholic or at election time claim to be Catholic, but the reality is that the only traditional Christians and Catholics who can get appointed now are those that he considers acceptable to Planned Parenthood and his anti-religion friends. Hillary – as the evidence below shows – would be worse. Hillary has not released a list of names of judges she would consider putting on the Supreme Court. Trump’s list is excellent – people who respect the Constitution, interpret the law and do not think they are supposed to make the laws. Let’s start with where the Democratic Party is at this point in history. My concern about the Democratic Party began most conspicuously in July 1992. The late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey, a pro-life advocate and a major player at the time in the Democratic Party, was slated to give a keynote address at the Democratic Convention at Madison Square Garden. The word got to Democratic Presidential nominee Bill Clinton and his group who were then emerging as the new party leadership that Casey was going to give a pro-life address. By that time, the new “progressive” Democrats led by Bill Clinton had decided to embrace Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion feminists as a key voting bloc. They decided to keep Gov. Casey from speaking because of his pro-life views. He was bumped from the program and he was not allowed near a live microphone. How do I know this? It is now widely reported. But more importantly, in February 1993 I attended a dinner in Philadelphia sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for America where Governor Casey was honored. I attended with Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, the then President of Franciscan University of Steubenville and spoke with Gov. Casey about the events at the convention. Notwithstanding subsequent efforts by the Democratic Party and their media friends to spin the story, I heard Gov. Casey and those around him verify the facts. When Gov. Casey’s son, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, used to call me to solicit contributions to his campaign, I told him that his father’s treatment by the party and its refusal to allow pro-life views to even be aired was why I switched my registration. Very soon after hearing Gov. Casey talk about not being allowed to speak at Madison Square Garden, I changed my registration to Republican. The Democratic Party, the party my whole extended family had automatically belonged to and which cheered when John F. Kennedy was elected, had abandoned us and our beliefs – but continued to think that they could count on the Catholic vote. Catholics, it is time to look at the facts: this party does not only take us for granted, they are attacking us. My concerns about what the power people in the Democratic Party really thought about religion were greatly heightened in April 2008 when then candidate Barack Obama made the following comments at a big dollar fundraiser in San Francisco: “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them….” “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion….” When Obama said people cling to religion because jobs have left their area, it told me that he just did not understand what religion was; or at least the religion I and my Christian friends and relatives embrace. He just doesn’t get it. Or worse, he gets it but he deprecates it because he thinks he will get more votes by dissing believers than respecting the depth of their religious faith. And Obama’s lack of respect for traditional Christian beliefs, apparently shared now by the power people in the Democratic Party, became even more apparent in 2009. As I described in detail in the Commencement Address I gave in May at Franciscan University, beginning in 2009 at The Cairo Conference, President Obama started to embrace a subtle but deceptively clever view of freedom of religion. He began to use the term “Freedom of worship” as if he were a champion of religion. But our Constitution gives us the “free exercise of religion,” which is vastly broader than mere freedom of worship. Many of the worst totalitarian governments in the world promise freedom of worship because that keeps religion confined within the walls of churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and houses. The very first freedom in our Constitution promises the free exercise of religion – your ability to practice your religion by having schools, hospitals, universities and preaching your beliefs publicly. Obama and Hillary Clinton see that as getting in the way of things the “progressive” Democratic party want to regulate as part of their vision of an what an ideal society should look like. Shortly after President Obama started to embrace the “freedom of worship” terminology, Hillary Clinton began using the same language, beginning as far as my research shows in a speech at Georgetown University and, with some exceptions, repeated and repeated since then. Every American, of any faith, should begin to worry about a politician or a party that wants to shrink the first freedom in our Constitution from free exercise of religion to just freedom of worship. So, am I just some paranoid lawyer over-analyzing words used in speeches? Let’s look at the 2016 Democratic Party Platform, adopted July 21, 2016, with Hillary Clinton’s authorization. What does it say about religion and the free exercise of religion? Here is what it says: “We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.” Alarm bells should go off. For the first time in American history, a major party does not unequivocally endorse the free exercise of religion but supports only a “progressive view” of religion. This means that Hillary Clinton or someone in government is going to be deciding and telling you whether your view of religion, your beliefs and the beliefs of your faith are the correct ones: the “progressive” ones. If you think this is alarmist, look at what is going on at many colleges and universities – students are being told that if they express what they may believe as part of their sincerely held faith, especially as to LGBT issues -- they are engaging in hate speech. So, the Democratic Party has now redefined what its view of religious freedom should be – and that should scare traditional Christians and especially Catholics. Is there any other evidence that Hillary Clinton shares that radical recasting of freedom of religion? Again, let’s look at the evidence there. At the Women’s World Summit in April 2015, Hillary Clinton said, “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated religious beliefs have to be changed.” Shouldn’t it be scaring us traditional Christians and Catholics when a major party candidate speaks of using laws to change deep-seated religious beliefs – and she is obviously speaking of changing the views of those of us whose religious views she disagrees with. When has a major candidate ever advocated an America where she or he is going to decide what religious views the rest of us or some of us may or may not hold? When did it become the job of the President to “change deep seated religious beliefs”? It has, of course, been widely reported that Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis at Wellesley was an analysis of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” This was an interesting choice for a college senior since Alinsky was a communist and his views and tactics would have been seen as aggressive even by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917. Published reports say that Hillary met with Alinsky, he found her charming and offered her a job which she declined. In the introduction or dedication to his work, Alinsky praises Lucifer, the devil, as the first radical to come away with his own kingdom. You decide what you will about what this all tells us about Hillary Clinton. In a September 23, 2016 Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Kenneth L. Woodward, who had been the religion editor of Newsweek, wrote about Hillary Clinton’s views as a Methodist. He quotes Hillary’s youth minister who told Newsweek that “we Methodists know what’s good for you.” To be sure, that quote is not attributed to Hillary but it certainly seems apropos – since her own statements seem to reflect that she should be deciding what beliefs can and should be tolerated under the Democratic Party’s views of the “progressive” vision of religion that is going to be backed up by laws, regulations and political will. That has already started to happen. Just look at the government in Obamacare trying to muscle the Little Sisters of the Poor and Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh, by the threat of massive fines, into providing abortifacient and contraception insurance for their employees. Catholics, evangelicals and everyone who wants to be sure we continue to have the free exercise of religion should be concerned. Think about that when you decide who to vote for. Many of my friends, relatives, neighbors, fellow parishioners – and especially women religious (who are usually the kindest best people in the world) will take issue with what I have written here. They find Trump outrageously offensive, as do I. They find the Democrats’ promises relating to education, health care and social services kind, and seductive. But it is fair to ask whether those kinds of programs have disserved the unfortunate, marginalized persons of our society who those programs were supposed to help by making them dependents of government rather than educated, free people with hopes and chances for a better future, not just a voting bloc that can be controlled by promises of free stuff. I truly worry about whether the government-subsidized breakdown of the traditional family and the narrowing of religious freedom as now espoused in the Democratic Party platform and by their candidate Hillary Clinton is the right course for Christians, Catholics, Hispanics, observant Jews or Muslims -- or for America. I have spent a lot of my professional career focusing on the free exercise of religion in one context or another. The Supreme Court Justices and other federal judges we will get from a Trump/Pence administration will be light years better than the ACLU types we will get from Hillary Clinton – and America will be living with the consequences for a long, long time. The mainstream media, the Hollywood types and the debate moderators have completely ignored these issues about religion. On October 12, news reports of Clinton campaign emails released by Wikileaks showed Hillary Clinton’s staffer Jennifer Palmieri and others staffers bashing Catholics and their beliefs. They think they can just take the Catholic and Hispanic vote for granted because Joe Biden is Catholic or Tim Kaine purports to be a practicing Catholic. But I urge everyone who is Catholic, a traditional Christian or who is worried about the erosion of religious freedom to look at the facts. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a publication titled “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The Catholic Church – which by the way is the largest provider of non-governmental social services in the history of the world – does not endorse or get into politics. That publication recommends that Catholics and all citizens vote their consciences after sincere reflection. But reflection means being informed. I hope you find my efforts here to inform you of the real facts helpful as you make your decision.