Thursday, December 06, 2007

 

Romney and Religion

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline posts the full, prepared text of Mitt Romney’s speech on his religious faith.

Local talk radio host Scott Allen Miller (“Scotto”) of WROW this morning was defending Romney. In the process, he criticized what he saw as prominent Fundamentalist Christians within the Republican base, making an issue of Romney’s religious faith, thus necessitating this speech as Romney’s response.

I think he overstates both the degree on influence that evangelicals have within the base, and the political extremes to which most will go in combating the common cultural obsession with the poorly defined (and less understood) tenet of the “separation of church and state.”

Speaking as an evangelical, born again Christian who most often finds political affinity within the Republican Party, its platform and political agenda, in no way do I agree with, support, or advocate for ramming any set of religious beliefs down anybody’s throats. I just want Government at all levels, and private citizens, businesses, civic and other non-profit organizations, to stop violating the Bill of Rights in denying citizens their rights to free religious expression.

The separation first fully articulated by Thomas Jefferson, had to do with the unfortunate British and similar Colonial practice of establishing an official state religion, and in effect denying other forms of religious expression by the power and influence of the State.

That concept, now enshrined in judicial precedents, does not mean that religious expression can never take place in public, in or out of state facilities. Unfortunately, large swaths of the public, many in left-leaning judiciaries, and Scotto, have internally translated the whole idea of “church state” into some kind of taboo about ever seeing artifacts of either in any kind of close proximity.

All of that as long winded introduction, to some longish excerpts of Romney’s speech that stood out:

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.

The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust. 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. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'

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? They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united.

We believe that every single human being is a child of God – we are all part of the human family. The conviction of the inherent and inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced. John Adams put it that we are 'thrown into the world all equal and alike.'

The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day, here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or nationality.

Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's terrible wars – no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty. America's resolve in the defense of liberty has been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting, nor must it ever be. America must never falter in holding high the banner of freedom.

(snip)

I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired … so grand … so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches. And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.

Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent Jihad, murder as martyrdom... killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance.

The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed. In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.

Paul Mirengoff comments:

There are three main points here. First, Romney will not allow authorities of his church, or of any other church, to exert influence on presidential decisions. Second, a president should not be expected to describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. Third, religion is a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the issues of the day, and our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.

There is, obviously, a tension between the second and third points. If religion is to be seriously considered in the context of the issues of the day, then it's conceivable that distinctive church doctrines are relevant.

Most of those whose votes Romney seeks will accept the line he seeks to draw between religious faith generally (relevant) and specific church doctrine (irrelevant). Our Founders certainly did, as Romney points out. However, Romney is giving the speech because there are more than a few such voters who are not inclined to accept that line.

The speech, which is eloquent and even moving in places, should help Romney with a some of these voters, but probably not many.

It’s one of the finest contemporary speeches I’ve read. Romney’s expression here exactly matches my understanding and beliefs about Government and Religion, and greatly enhances my comfort level with Romney, should be win the GOP nomination.

In other words, it helped with me.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who also links to reactions from Ed Morrissey, Mona Charen, and Ed Cone.)

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