Earlier this year, a Roman Catholic bishop came under fire from the Anti-Defamation League and others for comparing President Barack Obama to Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler during a sermon delivered at an Illinois church.

Now, as the 2012 election approaches, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria has reportedly ordered "every priest in his diocese" to read an anti-Obama letter to their congregations.

According to Think Progress, Jenky sent out the letter on Wednesday, telling priests that "[b]y virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass, November 3/4.”

In the letter, reprinted in full on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's website, Jenky writes:

Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present. Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community’s grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception.

This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system. Contrary to the guarantees embedded in the First Amendment, the HHS mandates attempt to now narrowly define and thereby drastically limit our traditional religious works. They grossly and intentionally intrude upon the deeply held moral convictions that have always guided our Catholic schools, hospitals, and other apostolic ministries.

"It is important to note that Jenky’s description is wrong or incomplete on several points," writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman in response to Jenky's letter. "The health-insurance coverage requirement does not apply to churches or church employees involved in its religious mission. It applies only to any secular operation by the church, such as hospitals and universities, just as it would apply to any other business."

Bookman adds that the policy also "does not require coverage of abortion," though it "does require that policies include contraception methods that block implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb, which the church considers abortion."

Jenky’s opposition to birth control also "puts him wildly out of step with his flock." As the political news site points out, a recent Gallup poll shows that "82 percent of Catholics say birth control is 'morally acceptable.'"

Jenky, however, is not the only religious leader to offer guidance to voters in recent weeks. In fact, as the South Bend Tribune notes, Jenky is the third Catholic leader in Illinois to do so.

In September, Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki "offered a commentary on the Democratic and Republican parties' platforms," the newspaper writes.

"There are many positive and beneficial planks in the Democratic Party platform, but I am pointing out those that explicitly endorse intrinsic evils," Paprocki told the Springfield Diocese newspaper, according to the Tribune.

In Rockford, Vicar General Eric Barr "compared Obama's support of religious freedom in Muslim countries with his lack of support for Catholic liberty," the Tribune reports.

Elsewhere, a Wisconsin Catholic bishop implied that voting for Democrats puts one's "soul in jeopardy."

Last week, Bishop David Laurin Ricken informed the 300,000-plus members of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., that voting for candidates whose positions contradict any so-called "non-negotiables" of Catholic teaching "could put [one's] soul in jeopardy," HuffPost blogger John Becker notes in his piece.

Those "non-negotiables" include abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and gay marriage, according to a letter Ricken wrote and posted on the diocesan website. The letter was reportedly also emailed to the offices of every parish.

"Ricken has forgotten that we live in a republic, not a theocracy, as separation of church and state is clearly established by constitutional law," wrote the Green Bay Press Gazette's John Reiman in response to Ricken's letter. "Simply put, it is ethically wrong for the bishop to connect one’s salvation through participating in the civic act of voting, ostensibly, against church doctrine."

What are your thoughts on this issue? Tell us in the comments below.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly called the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the "Atlantic Journal-Constitution." The error has been fixed.

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Click through the slideshow to see most and least Catholic states in the United States:
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  • Massachusetts

    44,905 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Rhode Island

    44330 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • New Jersey

    36,799 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Connecticut

    35056 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • New York

    32443 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Illinois

    28439 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • New Mexico

    28407 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Pennsylvania

    27578 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • California

    27469 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Louisiana

    26490 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Wisconsin

    25,066 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • North Dakota

    24,881 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • New Hampshire

    23,626 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Minnesota

    21,689 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Vermont

    20,503 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Nebraska

    20,414 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Delaware

    20,328 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Texas

    18,586 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Hawaii

    18,350 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • South Dakota

    18,286 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Michigan

    17,375 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Ohio

    17,272 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Nevada

    16,703 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Iowa

    16514 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Colorado

    16138 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Kansas

    14952 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Arizona

    14549 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Maryland

    14503 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Maine

    14311 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Florida

    13371 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Montana

    12898 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • District of Columbia

    12622 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Missouri

    12094 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Washington

    11664 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Indiana

    11532 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Wyoming

    10862 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Oregon

    10408 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Virginia

    8422 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Kentucky

    8291 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Idaho

    7872 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Alaska

    7162 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Georgia

    6156 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Utah

    5793 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • West Virginia

    5173 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Oklahoma

    4756 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Arkansas

    4206 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Alabama

    4198 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • North Carolina

    4121 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • South Carolina

    3929 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Mississippi

    3791 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.

  • Tennessee

    3504 Catholic adherents per 100,000 people.