If you’re a regular reader here (as if) you know that I’ve got a bit of a problem with the strategy Mitt Romney is apparently using to deal with people who have a problem with the fact that he’s a Mormon. Basically, he’s stressing that he’s a person of faith, pointing out what he has in common with the majority of people. That would be more or less acceptable to me, but the rhetoric Romney uses very clearly alienates those of us who don’t adhere to any religious faith. I’ve written about this before.
Today, Romney gave a speech at the George Bush library at Texas A&M, the purpose of which was to assuage the fears of those who are worried about what it would mean to have a Mormon president — much like John Kennedy did in 1960, assuring people that as president, he wouldn’t be taking orders from the pope. You can read the entire transcript of the speech at the site of the Wall Street Journal, but I thought I’d give you my comments on a few excerpts. This is basically what I was shouting back at the eye of hell while Mitzi spoke.
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.
So I take it that means that those of us who don’t have a religion aren’t free, or can’t be free. Why is that?
As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America’s ‘political religion’ – the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.
This one’s a little odd. When Lincoln gave his Lyceum Speech on January 27, 1838 in Springfiield Illinois, his point was pretty much what Romney says: commitment to the rule of law. As such, it’s really got nothing to do with the real theme of Romney’s speech. It’s about faith in something strictly secular. Here’s an excerpt from Lincoln’s speech:
The question recurs, “how shall we fortify against [mob law]?” The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;–let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty. Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap–let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;–let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.
Back to Romney:
Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience.
Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.
I wonder if that includes all the beliefs he professed to the people of Massachusetts when he was running for office here.
There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution.
And yet he seems to be just fine with a more general religious test — if you adhere to a religion, you pass. If not, fuck off.
The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from ‘the God who gave us liberty.’
Of course this is a reference to US currency and the pledge of allegiance, but “In God We Trust” was added to our money in 1864 and “under God” was added to the pledge in 1954, so this really has nothing at all to do with the Founders.
Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?
They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.
You wouldn’t ask those questions of a person who didn’t profess some faith? Why? Are you assuming the answers would be “no”?
These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours.
Assuming you have one, that is. If not, fuck off.
In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.
I guess I need to break this one down a bit… “…we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty…” Well, in some aspects of the cause of liberty, I suppose, but not all. A lot of school boards want the liberty to teach intelligent design. Reason finds that concept either laughable or disgusting.
“Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me.” If he means one has to be a member of both of those groups to be his ally, I guess that’s OK. But those could certainly be two separate groups, and the sentence doesn’t indicate to me that he’s saying one has to be in both groups. I think it would be fair to say that I believe in religious liberty, but I’m not seeking Mitt’s support for my views, and it’s pretty clear he wouldn’t support them. And there are certainly many people who have “knelt in prayer to the Almighty” but aren’t Mitt’s kind of people. Those folks for whom Mitt says he wants to double the size of Gitmo come to mind, for example.
“And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith.” We do not insist on a single strain of religion, but it appears we (that is, he and those to whom he’s pandering) do insist on some strain of religion. After all, in our nation’s symphony of faith, those of us who don’t have a faith don’t even get to sit with the orchestra.