romney’s speech

Read it all here.

Watch it here.

I’m going to pull some excerpts from his remarks and make a few comments on the parts of the speech that stuck out when I read them.

Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate’s religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today. Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for President, not a Catholic running for President. Like him, 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. “Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.

This may be an unpopular view to some religious conservatives, but Romney is absolutely right. Being a Christian, or a Mormon, or a person of any other faith should not be a qualification or disqualification for public office. It certainly doesn’t speak to a person’s ability to govern the country, as Jimmy Carter has shown us. Mike Huckabee is a a great guy. We all agree on that. He is someone who agrees 100% with all of the social conservative issues. He’s not the guy I want as President, because he has the same kind of faith in diplomacy as the Democrats. Huck should be working on getting some serious foreign advisors, and he should have someone on his staff read and brief him on the latest NIE, so he is prepared when reporters ask questions about it.

But back to Romney…he’s the guy I see as someone who will surround himself with experts who can give him the best advice, from domestic/economic policy to foreign policy. He did this as a CEO, and that’s been his pattern throughout his business career and his political career. That’s the kind of approach to government I want to see in a President. While it’s important to have a nominee who shares our values, it’s just as important to have one who can handle the job of being President. That’s why given the choice between Romney and Huckabee, I’m still going with Romney.

Here’s more of his speech:

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.There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs.

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.

Romney should be given credit for saying that he would not change his religious beliefs to win an election. He says that Americans do not respect “believers of convenience”. He’s right. They don’t. Neither do social conservatives. The problem many conservatives have with Romney has more to do with conveniently-timed conversion on other issues than it does about his Mormonism. They don’t trust him because they don’t believe that he has deeply-held principles about anything, and that he would say anything to get elected. They think that Romney is one of those who would “jettison their beliefs” for political advantage. I’m not sure that making promises not to change on his Mormon faith addresses those concerns.

There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. 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.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.

This is what Romney should have said at the debate, or a shorter version of what he said here. He appeared to be blindsided by the question about the Bible, and he kept repeating “The Bible is the Word of God”, hesitating on whether he should add anything else to that answer. It is a strength of our nation, not a weakness, that we have such diversity in our religious beliefs. That’s something our country has always had from its inception. He goes on to give examples of that diversity, and to explain what people of all religious faiths have in common.

I love this part in particular. (If Romney wrote this himself, the man is gifted with words…)

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. As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life’s blessings.

It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. 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.

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. 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.

This speech hit many hot buttons for a conservative audience. The idea that separation of church and state also means that the state can’t interfere with the free exercise of religion — that’s an article of faith for most social conservatives. He even indirectly mentioned the “war on Christmas”. There is much to like about this Romney speech, but I’m not sure if he wins any converts from Huckabee by it. Maybe he doesn’t have to. If the goal was to make Romney look less scary to everyone else, then mission accomplished.

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