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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Romney's No Kennedy

Mitt Romney has a problem. Being a Mormon, more than a few on the right believe he's not really a Christian. "I told [Mitt], you cannot equate Mormonism with Christianity; you cannot say, 'I am a Christian just like you,'" Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina told Bloomberg News in October. "If he does that, every Baptist preacher in the South is going to have to go to the pulpit on Sunday and explain the differences."

The same Bloomberg article points out the problem that Romney faces with "Values Voters":

Yet for conference-goers [to an Evangelical summit] such as Noah Crowe, a Southern Baptist pastor from Robbinsville, North Carolina, there's nothing Romney can do to overcome their distrust of Mormonism. "His faith is not the faith I believe in, teach and preach," said Crowe, who added that he studied Mormonism at his Bible college in a course called "Cults and False Religions."

A CBS News poll taken last June showed that 43% of voters wouldn't vote for a Mormon. Wrote Bloomberg, " Republican strategists argue that time is wasting for a Kennedyesque speech to explain the role religion will play in a Romney White House."

Now, news has come out that Romney will make that speech.

CBS News:

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will deliver a much-anticipated speech on religious faith at the George H. W. Bush library on Thursday, CBS News has confirmed. Romney's Mormon faith has been an underlying theme of his presidential candidacy but, until today, it has been an area he and his campaign have shied away from addressing directly.

"This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor's own faith would inform his Presidency if he were elected," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden in a statement released Sunday evening.

"I probably could never do something that would compare to what John F. Kennedy did -- his was a masterpiece in American political history," says Romney. There's another reason why he couldn't give Kennedy's speech -- the pricks he's reaching out to would hate him for it.

I found Kennedy's "Catholic speech" last night and read through it. Mitt's right, it's a masterpiece. It's also everything the religious right opposes. Kennedy's speech was about the separation of church and state and the secular nature of our country and its Constitution. If Mitt gave a speech like this, the Dobsons and Robertsons of this country would fry him.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference -- and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials -- and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.


But it's clear that the America that Kennedy believed in -- the America the founders had in mind -- is an America that the "values voters," with their BS about a "Christian nation," would view with a deep and abiding hatred. It's sad that Americans in 2007 are less enlightened and more bigotted than our counterparts in 1960. Not only wouldn't Romney give that speech, but almost none of the Democrats would, either. We now live in a time when a presidential candidate has to be religious and, worse, in a time when that candidate has to have the right religion. We live in a time when the principle of religious liberty is losing ground.

As an atheist, Romney's Mormonism is no more screwy to me than Giuliani's Catholicism or Kucinich's Paganism. If I were to put my candidates to a religious test, I'd have no one to vote for. Luckily for me, I don't put candidates to that test. I don't care what their religious beliefs are for the same reason that I don't care whether or not they avoid walking under ladders -- I'd rather they didn't, but nobody's perfect. From my perspective, no matter who I vote for, I'm giving the launch codes to someone who believes in magical crap. Surprisingly, history shows that a belief in magical crap doesn't really matter much.

Mitt Romney's going to defend his belief in magical crap tomorrow. And, by doing so, he'll most likely dig the grave of religious liberty a little deeper. He won't argue that everyone has the right to believe what they want, he'll argue that Mormonism should be included in the list of legitimate religions -- of American religions. He'll try to advance his own cause, at the expense of those other Americans who don't subscribe to one of those "right" religions.

Most people don't know it, but there have been at least four presidents who weren't Christian -- John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and William Howard Taft were all Unitarian. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Johnson didn't belong to any church at all. Many of these unchurched or unchristian presidents are considered to be historical giants.

Mitt Romney could do the right thing. He could argue that liberty, history, and the Constitution demand that his religion stay out of politics, as JFK did. But we all know he won't.

He'll sell everyone who doesn't subscribe to one of those religiously correct beliefs down the river and argue that he believes in Jesus -- scratch that, Republican Jesus -- as much as anyone else. And he'll argue that only people who believe in Jesus are fit to be president.

Not only won't Romney's Kennedyesque speech be Kennedyesque, it won't even be pro-American. It'll be a kiss-ass speech for the religious right who's definition of "religious freedom" means the right to be a Christian.

Given the opportunity to argue in favor of the Constitution and the values this nation was founded on, Romney won't take it. He'll argue that his religion should be included in that list of state religions that Americans are allowed to have.

Screw him.


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1 comment:

DB said...

And the press building this up as a "Kennedy-esque" speech is only setting him up for failure. People had issue with Catholicism because the church would control the president, this speech is going to be about how Mormons are mainstream...way different approach, and he will fail.