Patterico's Pontifications


Romney to Give Speech on His Religion

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 2:33 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Later this week at the Bush Library in Texas, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will give a speech on his religion and faith in America:

“Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will give a speech this week explaining his Mormon faith, his campaign said Sunday.

The decision, made after months of debate at his Boston headquarters over whether to make a public address about his religion, comes as the former Massachusetts governor’s bid is threatened in Iowa by underdog Mike Huckabee, a one-time Southern Baptist minister who has rallied influential Christian conservatives to erase Romney’s months-long lead and turn the race into a dead-heat.

Romney will deliver a speech called “Faith in America” at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, on Thursday.

“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,” Kevin Madden, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “Governor Romney understands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and he personally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his views with the nation.”

I think this speech is long overdue. It’s not fair that Romney’s faith is subject to special scrutiny but a Mormon candidate is a problem for those Americans who see it as more of a cult than a religion. In addition, it’s always surprised me that Romney hasn’t been better prepared to deal with this issue.

As an aside, the Bush Library in College Station TX is an interesting venue for the speech and, to me, it’s a surprising place to pick to cover this topic.


ADDITIONAL NOTE 12/2/2007: In a similar vein, Tony Blair avoided discussing religion while he was Prime Minister:

“During the interview, Mr Blair said faith was a crucial component for him in having the character to take on the prime minister’s job and had been “hugely important” to his premiership. But while it was commonplace in the US and elsewhere for politicians to talk about their religious convictions, he added: “you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you’re a nutter.”


26 Responses to “Romney to Give Speech on His Religion”

  1. “It’s not fair that Romney’s faith is subject to special scrutiny…”

    If I leave in the word “special” as you wrote it, I’ll agree with you. However, take that word out and a person would be expressing the idea it’s not fair to scrutinize a candidate’s faith, something I expressly disagree with.

    A candidate can choose how much or not of their own beliefs about God and spirituality, doctrine, and/or dogma they wish to expose… but any given person certainly can scrutinize another’s faith. This includes whether they agree or disagree with that faith.

    As a Christian in the mold of Thomas Jefferson, but not St. Augustine, John Calvin, or Paul, I am more interested in how a person lives morally and how competent they are than their actual religion… yet I certainly can understand why someone who believes every word in the Bible [or other religious text(s)] is word for word literally true as that YouTube questioner inelegantly put it… would care deeply about a candidate’s religion.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  2. I think the speech is a mistake. John Kennedy had to do it in 1960 because of what was said about Al Smith in 1928 and because of the times. This is a different era. Adlai Stevenson’s divorce was a topic in 1952. Does anyone think that should be an issue now? By making this speech, Romney validates all the questions as legitimate. I think it would be better to make those with questions establish the case that anyone’s religion should be an issue. Dennis Prager got a lot of abuse when he questioned the intent of a Muslim Congressman to use the Koran when he took his oath of office last January. If a Muslim cannot be questioned, a Morman should not feel obliged to make a speech about it.

    Mike K (86bddb)

  3. “By making this speech, Romney validates all the questions as legitimate.”

    Strategically I disagree with you, Mike. To someone like yourself, the questions probably aren’t legitimate or at least important. The speech won’t make a darn bit of difference to someone who sees things the way you do.

    To others, they are very important questions. They are important whether Romney talks about them or not — these people, and I don’t mean that disparagingly, know if they oppose the L.D.S. church. I do, for that matter, in the sense that I think it’s a religion started by a dishonest fraudster who used his power to sexually abusewomen, including numerous of his 33 wives, only one of which is mentioned (or even searchable) on, run by the church. Plus, as Hitchens pointed out, the Mormon church was officially racist during part of Romney’s adult life. Since he was born into the faith, I don’t particularly blame him for this. Other people, however, are concerned because he grew up with these teachings.

    I just don’t confuse Mitt Romney with Joseph Smith or the equally despicable Brigham Young. The fact, however, that he probably admires such people concerns me… I just justify it with the thought he’s willfully ignorant of the founder of his church’s life, which itself is scant reassurance.

    Moving on. I think Mitt Romney is one of the most capable men running for that job, perhaps the most capable. My biggest problems with him are his flip-flops and commitment to expediency, not principle. He was pro-abortion when his church was opposed to it, pro-abortion in 2002, and pro-life now when running for the G.O.P. nomination.

    Since one of the things I greatly admire about my Mormon friends and the church’s teaching is its strong commitment to family and life — I know committed, dedicated, lovely pro-life advocates who are personal friends of mine — I’m troubled that Romney took this aspect of his faith so unseriously he couldn’t match my friends’ dedication and love of God’s unborn children. So, here, a question or two about his commitment to his faith remain.

    Is it just a social club for him? Does he deeply believe it? Something in between?

    As things stand, I’d support him were he the nominee and I a U.S. citizen and voter. But partly because of his flip-flops on the life issue — in opposition to his faith’s teachings — I’d have to say he’s not my favourite candidate despite his business acumen and campaign competence.

    So to those who have doubts, him addressing them with a speech can only help. He’ll reassure some who want to support him and have doubts and are looking for a reason to set those aside. To those who already support him, he won’t lose any just because he talks about his religion — a religion of which everyone already knows he’s a member.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  4. Ultimately, the question becomes whether or not a president’s ‘faith’ will preclude him from acting swiftly and definitively in defense of the nation. To that extent, examination of the ‘faith’ of each candidate is an essential ingredient in evolving a voter’s decision. In some cases, their ‘faiths’ may be GWB-like, and in others their ‘faiths’ may make them Carteresque on defense. A faithless person like hillary will necessarily take a poll to decide when & how to defend the nation. So, yes, we need to micro-analyze what they call their ‘faith.’

    xraynova (4c3db3)

  5. Why do you assume Hillary is faithless? You’re right to analyze it — but how do you know she isn’t a believer and someone who takes a much more liberal interpretation of Christianity? When one reads Jesus Christ’s words, a man I deeply admire, I can see some justification for opposing the rich and income redistribution. Granted, he’s talking about charity, not using the power of the state.

    But how do you know she doesn’t mix her political philosophy with her real faith? I simply don’t know. I’m not certain.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  6. A faithless person like hillary will necessarily take a poll to decide when & how to defend the nation.

    What are you talking about? Hillary Clinton has been described many times as a faithful Methodist.

    It’s really not up to the rest of us to judge somebody else’s relationship with Jesus (or whomever). I think it’s a mistake for Mitt Romney to give a speech about his faith.

    lc (1401be)

  7. Religion is nothing more than an acquired neurosis. Irrational, emotional baggage our parents saddled us with. In some instances, even a psychosis. Lucky are the people who can cure themselves of it. Most of us can’t. Some of us can admit that we are sick. Unfortunately, the ones who cannot seem to outnumbers us.

    nk (2e8319)

  8. As long as officeholders don’t use their office to force their religion onto me, I hold with Thomas Jefferson’s pithy wisdom: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    Romney’s views on evolution, for example, are a sensible reconciliation of religion and science.

    Bradley J. Fikes (1c6fc4)

  9. Atrios says Mitt’s going to announce that he’s become a Baptist.

    David Ehrenstein (4f5f08)

  10. Christoph’s comments are a good example of why Romney needs to give a speech on his religion. I don’t know whether Christoph has come to his feelings about the church after in-depth study or if he is regurgitating anti-Mormon propaganda (I’m not looking for an argument and will give him the benefit of the doubt), but his statements, manifestly untrue in my view, (I am LDS) are common from those who have been told about the church without ever talking to a member (this does not appear to be his case).

    Romney has huge negatives, in large part due to his faith. He needs to at least present how religion functions in his life if he is to win over any of this group.

    I agree that his flip flop on abortion is a real question. Still, I doubt that he has any real chance of winning the election and I doubt I’d vote for him co-religionist or not.

    Dr T (340565)

  11. Study.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  12. I will vote for Romney over McCain and for Hillary over Giuliani. This election is going to be over the lesser of evils. God help us.

    nk (2e8319)

  13. It will be nice to hear a serious speech about anything.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  14. Given the centrality of faith and its importance to this election (turnout of the fundamentalist GOP base) I must vehemently disagree with your assessment, DRJ, that Romney has not been “prepared” to deal with the question of his personal faith. I say he knew precisely what he was going to say about it.

    The only question was one of timing. Was he going to wait until shots wee being fired, or was he going to attempt to pre-empt the attacks, even though he was not the acknowledged front runner in Iowa, NH and Mich.?

    I think he needed to wait for the nutroots to start firing so he could be seen as an aggrieved/persecuted man of faith. All the good people of the South love to back anyone seen to be unfairly marginalized. Now, when Mitt speaks to them, he’ll be coming to them from a common place deep within their psyche.

    I fully grant that I could be wrong about the best strategic timing, but there is just no way that he wasn’t 100% ready to take this question on before he even decided to run.

    Ed (ed25ca)

  15. That’s a good point, Ed. I agree that Romney has probably given great thought to his religion and how it will affect his candidacy. When I wrote that, I was thinking of Romney’s response to the Bible question in the CNN debate.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  16. “I agree that Romney has probably given great thought to his religion and how it will affect his candidacy.

    As opposed to great thought to his religion. IMO

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  17. I trust he will address his religion’s views of African-Americans.

    David Ehrenstein (4f5f08)

  18. The Bush library is really not a surprising venue since Romney has given a previous major address there.

    JFK’s famous speech on religion in 1960 was delivered in Texas. There are infinitely more Catholics than Mormons, so comparisons are untidy.

    Huckabee’s rise created panic. Politicians must be allowed to panic. They need activity. It is their substitute for achievement.

    steve (5e672b)

  19. “I trust he will address his religion’s views of African-Americans.”

    David, to be fair you must acknowledge current church teachings are African-Americans are equal and can hold any church office.

    Now, one could ask how the supposedly inspired prophet of God in the only true church on Earth receives revelations which indicate God changes his mind on important family-structure and racial teachings, which just so happen to correspond with U.S. political pressures and realities. In the L.D.S. view, God is nothing if prone to changing his mind.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  20. Steve,

    I’m not trying to nit-pick and I know politicians can’t schedule speeches anyplace they want, especially on short notice. However, College Station TX is not only a conservative university town, it’s probably the second- or third-most religious university town in Texas.

    It’s an interesting choice to me.

    DRJ (a6fcd2)

  21. The third-most religious university town in Texas, is it? I’ll certainly take your word for that.

    Romney obviously feels a connection to the Bush library. Twice in eight months he’s headed there to deliver a major policy speech. The scheduling choice is not in the least surprising.

    I’d also speculate Romney might pick Jeb as his running mate.

    steve (5e672b)

  22. In addition, it’s always surprised me that Romney hasn’t been better prepared to deal with this issue.

    This is true but I think that it may be too little too late and viewed as more of a reaction to the Hucakabee surge than anything else.

    voiceofreason (4c736c)

  23. JFK’s famous speech on religion in 1960 begins:

    “While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face … .

    … But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, … it is apparently necessary for me to state once again–not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me–but what kind of America I believe in.

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute … 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 … 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.

    For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew–or a Quaker–or a Unitarian–or a Baptist. … Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you–until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

    Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end–where all men and all churches are treated as equal–where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice–where … [all] refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

    That is the kind of America in which I believe. … I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

    The entire speech is at

    JayHub (0a6237)

  24. That’s a great speech. Romney should be giving his speech at the JFK library. Maybe it would shame all of the JFK idolizers in the press into not trying to use Romney’s religion against him in the general election (assuming he wins the primary).

    Doc Rampage (ebfd7a)

  25. Christopher,

    God didn’t change His mind. Just as the Apostles of the New Testament grew in their understanding, so did the early leaders of the LDS Church. They looked for a solution for many years to change what had gone wrong. They have done more than you know to help bring this to light without inviting attacks and shaking the faith of the members. There’s a new set of DVDs that layout the true meanings and understandings on all the Black issues. It’s quite impressive, called Blacks in the Scriptures.
    It’s done by two African American Mormons.


    Joe (630057)

  26. Obama versus Romney would make for a very interesting race. Which of America’s entrenched prejudices would rule the day? Some evangelical rednecks might implode with anxiety as they approach the ballot box. Also, would Romney be able to overcome his schizophrenic (multiple personality) problem with respect to all important social issues?

    Robert Conley (c949f7)

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