RELIGIOUS liberty is, as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared yesterday, "fundamental to America’s greatness." With religious division inciting violence across the globe, he is right to celebrate America’s tradition of religious tolerance. He’s right, too, that no one should vote against him, or for him, because he is a Mormon. We only wish his empathy for religious minorities such as his own extended a bit further, to those who do not believe in God.
It is regrettable that 47 years after John F. Kennedy felt the need to promise voters that his Catholic faith would not dictate his conduct as president, Mr. Romney felt compelled to offer similar assurances that "no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions." It’s regrettable, too, that the skepticism and even hostility some voters feel toward Mormonism has been played upon by the man who has emerged as his chief rival in Iowa, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who is running commercials that proclaim him to be a "Christian leader." That is why Mr. Romney felt the need to detail his creed: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind." If, as Mr. Romney correctly says, the country’s founders took care not to impose a religious test for any public office, a candidate’s belief, or not, in the divinity of Christ ought to be irrelevant.
Where Mr. Romney most fell short, though, was in his failure to recognize that America is composed of citizens not only of different faiths but of no faith at all and that the genius of America is to treat them all with equal dignity. "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom," Mr. Romney said. But societies can be both secular and free. The magnificent cathedrals of Europe may be empty, as Mr. Romney said, but the democracies of Europe are thriving.
"Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government," Mr. Romney said. But not all Americans acknowledge that, and those who do not may be no less committed to the liberty that is the American ideal.
Iagree with Yglesius, too:
Now if Romney had wanted to say that the nature of his beliefs about Jesus are irrelevant to the campaign, fine. Similarly, if he’d actually wanted to avoid discussing Mormon theology, fine. But he didn’t stick to it. Instead, what he wanted to do was discuss just enough about Mormon theology to make it seem as similar as possible to orthodox Christianity while underscoring the idea that the nature of his belief in Christ is relevant to the campaign just insofar as his beliefs overlap with those of the Evangelical Protestants whose votes he’s courting.
All of this meshes with Romney’s disgusting efforts to unite all people of faith under the banner of excluding atheists entirely from his account of virtue. And this, in turn, combines with his ludicrous "say something nice about everyone" paragraph:
I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims.