“Romney: No religious test for president”

Christ_visits_book_of_mormon_peopleRomney is right in saying that American tradition holds that there should be no "religious test" for holding public office in the United States.  Unfortunately, the implication that this dictum applies to the personal opinions of individual voters is egregious and deceptive.  The phrase is from the founding documents of the United States and is concerned with the kind of government bar to office that the founders had experienced as subjects of the British king.  It would have been a good idea for Romney to stick to the truth in his speech today rather than resorting to the kind of marketing rubbish that so dominates politics today.

I attended graduate school in Salt Lake City.  This is essentially a Mormon city.  I found Mormons as a group to be decent, incredibly hard working, honest Americans.  The only faults I would ascribe to them are an inclination to sacharine sentiment and an excessive apppetite for pie.  This latter trait may be brought on by their self denial of stimulants.

I would not have difficulty in voting for a Mormon for president or any other office.  I would not have a difficulty in voting for a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or any other category of believer (or unbeliever).  What I would be concerned with in each case would be my appreciation of the person’s character and policy positions.

Romney’s problems on the religion "front" are not with people like me.  His problems are with those who believe deeply and fervently that the "rapture" is coming soon and that the Bible is literally true, word after word after word.  In my version of Christianity we waited for the rapture on hilltops a thousand years ago.  It did not come and now we are inclined to be less literal about scripture.

In my opinion, Romney’s faith is incompatible with that of orthodox Christians and  evangelical Protestants will feel that strongly.  Reverend Land’s statement is indicative.  As the months pass that incompatibility will become increasingly evident.

Romney should have left this topic alone, trusting in the essential fairness and tolerance of Americans.  Now, we will see what we are really about in this country.  pl



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21 Responses to “Romney: No religious test for president”

  1. Tim G says:

    “Romney should have left this topic alone, trusting in the essential fairness and tolerance of Americans. Now, we will see what we are really about in this country.”
    Robert Novak’s column in the WaPo takes this on directly–the reason Romney is having this discussion with the American people now is Huckabee’s surge in Iowa. Romney is not concerned about the “tolerance of Americans”; he is addressing the intolerant faction of the Republican Party.

  2. David W says:

    My own bias against Romney comes more from his membership in the Church of the Holy Lucre and as a Deacon of I’ll Say and Do Anything to Get Elected.
    otoh, I do think it is fair game to ask questions about a candidates beliefs, because believing that Jesus came to America, etc. shows a propensity to ‘believe’ that belies historical and scientific facts, which is a turn back towards the Dark Ages as far as i’m concerned.
    I’d use another illustration in order to better demonstrate the ramifications and relevance of religion; would you make the same statements if Scientologist Tom Cruise were running for president?

  3. FDChief says:

    Wasn’t this the question that Kennedy had to answer in 1960 by essentially telling the public; yes, I’m Catholic in my private life, but the Pope can’t tell me what to do politically or as Head of State?
    AFAIK the stated position of the LDS is that believers are required to obey the direction of the “president, prophet, seer and revelator”, i.e., the president of the LDS Church.
    So I think the issue here isn’t “Can a Mormon be President” but “If the President of the LDS tells the Mormon President of the United States that homosexuality should be outlawed and the Department of Justice should be directed to lean on states to enact and enforce sodomy laws, does said U.S. President have to obey?

  4. Cloned Poster says:

    Europe got over all these hang-ups when they shipped the Pilgrim Fathers to Maryland.

  5. Cloned Poster says:

    Europe got over all these hang-ups when they shipped the Pilgrim Fathers to Maryland.

  6. Oh goodie, we can talk religion and politics all at the same time!
    What’s that saying about opinions…everyone’s got one…smell…etc.?
    I’m old school. Tell me about your policy ideas and leave Jesus out of it.
    Of course, the Calvinists who taught me were old school too: Governments are “of Man” and should be treated as such – flawed and corrupt. They reminded us to put our trust in Jesus, not in governments and temporal rulers. (Well, “reminded” is a nice way to put it! Fundamentalist Calvinists tend not to be a happy-go-lucky, fun-as-a-barrel-of-monkeys type.)
    My, how times have changed.

  7. Jose says:

    I’m surprised he didn’t flip-flop on this issue too.
    However, this was an excellent speech and should help him against the Huck and Rotten-Rudy.
    Amazing, with all the issues facing America, we have to deal with what according to the First Amendment should not be an issue at all.

  8. João Carlos says:

    Juan Cole today:
    “Mitt Romney’s speech in Texas on Thursday was supposed to be an attempt to fend off religious bigotry. Instead, it betrays some prejudices of its own (against secular people), and seems to provoke others to bigotted statements. It has been likened to the speech of John F. Kennedy on his Catholicism. But we knew John F. Kennedy, and Mitt Romney is no John F. Kennedy. Kennedy strongly affirmed the separation of religion and state. Romney wants to dragoon us into a soft theocracy (not as a Mormon but as a Republican allied to the Pat Robertsons of the world). Kennedy wanted to be accepted as an American by other Americans. Romney wants to be accepted as a conservative Christian by other conservative Christians.”
    “This conundrum is the price the Republican Party is paying for pandering to the religious Right. Can a secular person even win the Republican nomination any more? If you make yourself captive of the Protestant Right, then you will discover that they believe Mormons are heretics. The Republican Party has established its own litmus test, and since it has been a dominant party in recent years, we’ve all been affected by it. Romney’s plight in finding it hard to be accepted by that constituency mirrors the plight of secular and unchurched Americans, on whom the very people Romney is sucking up to want to impose their narrow and sectarian values.”

  9. jonst says:

    Well, lets see….the man, G.H.W.Bush, who introduced Romney at this self described ‘plea for religious toleration’ in American once said:
    “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”
    Then Romney said you can not have freedom without religion. I’m an atheist. As are, broadly defined, about 22 mil other fellow Americans. And, I suspect, a hole lot more if truth be told. But, be that as it may, on the numbers….he did not win any points from me to the extent I took the exercise as anything other then a cheap carnival barker’s pitch. The phony, pathological, bastard. But hey, that was such a ‘nice’ looking Jesus the Mormon’s cooked up…looks like he could be Jones, or a Miller, or,even, a Smith.

  10. 7 December 2007
    Charlottesville, Virginia
    Regardless of Mitt Romney’s spiritual or religious beliefs, he’s still completely unsuited to be President of the United States. In other words, if Mitt Romney were a Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic or Hindu, he would still be a hair gelled, clueless political toady, an opportunistic tumor on the body politic of a country suffering so many other serious maladies. His being a Mormon is not an issue for me; his being an idiot and corporate stooge is.
    SubKommander Dred

  11. bstr says:

    Dear SubKommander, I have read American poetry from Whitman to Collins. I know American poetry. And your comment sir was poetry.

  12. jamzo says:

    kennedy had to confront the historic anti-catholic sentiment of protestant-dominated america and did so by affirming religon as a private matter and himself as ready, willing, and able to act independently of the roman catholic clergy/institution
    romney has to confront the historic anti-mormon sentiment of christian-dominated america as well as court evangelical republican activists
    similar but different
    he classifies me as an active practicioner of the “religon of secularlism”
    this causes me to think of
    him as arrogant and dangerous

  13. lina says:

    To paraphrase Andrew Sullivan: “this is the Republican Party that Rove built.”
    They made this bed; they can rot in it.

  14. Abu Sinan says:

    I think he shot himself in the foot. There are those in the religious right that will never like Romney because of his religion. No speech is going to chnage this.
    What it will do is bring up the subject of which I think he will be on the loosing end in many cases.
    I grew up with most of my friends being Mormon, my best friend was, and my first girlfriend. I used to attend after school classes with her at the local LDS church.
    I know a fair amount about their beliefs and cannot say I find much if it credible, but that is their choice and I’d have no problem voting for a Mormon candidate. I just happen not to like Romney so I would not vote for him.
    I dont like how religion is becoming more and more of an issue in political races, I’d prefer that it not be an issue. Bush Jr. was asked in the first race who is favourite political philosopher was, he stated “Jesus Christ”.
    Locke wouldnt have bothered me as an answer, but “Jesus” certainly did.
    As a side note, I wonder what would happen if a Muslim ran for President and answered “Mohammed” to such a question? Keep in mind Mohammed actually had a wife range of experience on the issue, whereas Jesus certainly didnt.

  15. anna missed says:

    Unlike other religions, don ‘t Mormons have to take an oath of loyalty to the Mormon Church? Is it possible to uphold more than one oath of loyalty at the same time? If Romney became president and preformed a duty frowned upon by the church, would the church abduct him for retraining – or simply excommunicate him?

  16. Apparently, American candidates for the Presidency — and most other political offices as well — have never heard of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who when asked his religion replied: “The religion of all wise men.” And when asked “What religion is that?” wisely answered: “Wise men never say.”
    Judging from the deplorable state of the much-traduced-by-religion Constitution of the United States, it would seem obvious to the casual observer that wisdom may abide somewhere in America, but certainly not among its institutional “elites” who can’t talk enough about religion when they should just shut up whenever anyone raises the toxic topic.

  17. Rick T says:

    Freedom does NOT require religion, but religion DOES require Freedom.
    They always get it backwards.

  18. Matthew says:

    It’s nice that the candidate who said he would not appoint any Muslims to his cabinet wants America to be tolerant of his Mormonism. JFK he ain’t.

  19. michael savoca says:

    I would differ with those who might think that Romney has convincingly communicated a reasonable belief that he does not adhere to a religious test for one to hold public office.
    I heard Mr. Romney say that he would only appoint judges who have “faith”. I hear Mr. Romney state that he thinks the movement to keep government secular is “a religion”.
    There was a time when the words “under God” did not follow the words “one nation” in the pledge of allegiance. There was a time when ‘In God We Trust” did not appear on our money.
    That treatment appeared on two cent coins about the time of the Civil War and paper money in the mid 1950’s.
    I believe in God. I believe God is not be fond of being referenced in a motto set upon money or wrenched from the lips of a citizen pledging allegiance to a country.
    Mitt Romney appears to be a shill and a chameleon for which ever way the political winds blow especially depending upon whether he is running for governor of Massachusetts or the presidency of the United States.
    Mitt Romney is smart leverage buy-out investor turned politician who thinks most of us are fools. I am not, so he won’t have my vote.

  20. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Does our American idea of “separation of church and state” apply to foreign policy? Say to the Middle East?
    US Christian Zionists number some 25 million or so Americans. At the core of their theology is a particular and peculiar eschatology developed in the 19th century (1820s-1840s) in the United Kingdom. This is currently referred to as the “End Times” or “Armageddonist” perspective.
    The technical term for the eschatological system is “pre-millennial dispensationalism” and it was INVENTED by a Brit ex Church of Ireland priest named John Nelson Darby, for whom Google. The “Rapture” concept was invented by his friend Edward Irving, for whom Google. The ideology came to the North America with Darby’s visits to the US and Canada from the Civil War/WBS era to about 1872. This particular eschatology was assimilated into the doctrine of the proto-Fundamentalists (late 19th century) and Fundamentalists (1910-1915). It is the doctrine of the “Scofield edition” of the Bible (curiously published by Oxford University Press all these years.)
    Integrated into the eschatology is the concept (and political program)for the “restoration” of Jews to the Holy Land and the restoration of the Holy Land to the Jews. Palmerston made astute use of this “political base” for his imperial policy in the Middle East in the 1830s and 40s.
    The question to ask is: “Do you believe the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy.?” If the response is yes, you are probably speaking to someone who as adopted the above Fundamentalist eschatology and political program.
    The call for war against Iraq in 2002 was vigorously advanced by the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals for whose ranks “pre-millennial dispensationalism” is theological doctrine. It is, of course, NOT doctrine for mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches in America. Also, not all Evangelicals subscribe to it.
    I picked up a copy of a new book on the matter by Victoria Clark, “Allies for Armageddon. The Rise of Christian Zionism” (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2007. It is a useful presentation and there is a growing literature on the issue. Father Steven Sizer and Rev. Don Wagner have pioneered this effort in their books. I hope to add to it in my own book.

  21. Romney is indeed right in saying that American tradition holds that there should be no “religious test” for holding public office in the United States. But it isn’t merely “American tradition:” It’s mandated by the Constitution.
    It says so right in Article VI, Section 3: “No religious Test shall ever be used as a qualification for any office or trust in the United States.”
    Too bad that Romney would impose a religious test on a trust — the state-created institution of civil marriage — by pushing for a constitutional amendment that would enforce a religious doctrine against homosexuality by barring gay and lesbian couples from marrying.
    Far too many people have gotten it in their heads that the state-created institution of civil marriage and the religious sacrament of holy matrimony are one and the same. They are not.
    I keep asking opponents of same-sex marriage how can they ban it without violating the constitutional prohibition on government endorsement of an anti-gay religious dogma and I can never get a straight answer from them.

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