Mitt Romney delivered a major speech on religion today. Quotations from that speech can be broken down into two categories: "Religion is the effin' most important thing ever" and "Please, please don't judge me based on my religion!"
Quotations and more after the jump.
In the "Vote Romney because I'm religious" category:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom.
In John Adams’ words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'
And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.
But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests.
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?
In that spirit, let us give thanks to the divine 'author of liberty.' And together, let us pray that this land may always be blessed, 'with freedom's holy light.'
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.
And in the "Dude, it's so not cool to judge me based on my religion. This is, like, a free country" category:
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. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.
I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.
As governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution – and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.
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.
Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.
And maybe there's room for a third category: "Suck it, Jesus! The Constitution is my god now":
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.
Between all of these quotations is a tenable position: don't vote for a GOP candidate based on his religion, vote for him because he agrees with your attempts to legislate religion. There are religious people who are pro-choice or who would be excluded by a lot of the specific policies he lists in his speech, but they don't matter. His idea of "unity" is only for a few people - the ones who are likely to vote for him.
I don't like the idea of someone's race, religion, gender, sex, sexuality, skin color, or disability determining whether or not they can win high office, but Romney's making his bed and pandering to those very people who would have the biggest problem with a Mormon in high office. There's a reason he was governor of Massachusetts and his father was the governor of Michigan instead of them being governors in Alabama and Louisiana, the very religious tolerance that, for all his pretty words, Romney is effectively campaigning against, is necessary to him having a political career.
Moreover, for all the hype that this was meant to allay fears about his Mormonism, he really didn't mention it at all. Sure, he says that he won't address specific aspects of theology, and I can respect that, but that doesn't mean that a political system that has developed an effective holiness test will.
But it was probably best for him not to start a discussion of LDS theology himself.
More a little later: The more I think about the JFK comparisons that he made in hyping up the speech, the more bothered I am. He made that bizarre statement that "no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions" to echo JFK, but I don't think that people who have a problem with Mormons really think that they're following a specific leadership in Utah in the same way that people used to think that about Catholics (before we all found out that most Catholics don't really care what the Vatican says). People with a problem with Mormonism have a problem with the theology, not the leadership, or at least their perception of the theology.
And his speech is pretty much the anti-JFK: instead of promising not to let religion influence his presidency, he's promising that it will influence his presidency. I guess that shows how far the right will go to revise history, in the same way that the founding fathers became excessively religious and MLK became a libertarian with a little revisionism.
Either that or he and everyone he's trying to reach just doesn't get it.