Mitt Romney's "Give me liberty to be a Mormon" speech
Analysis by Dr. Joseph B. Fuiten
Mitt Romney gave a speech today to address issues about his Mormon religion. What he gave was a speech about religious liberty. I would call it the "Give me liberty to be a Mormon" speech. He gathered the covering of liberty around his religion. The basic logic of the speech was along several lines:
Ironically, he said "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." Then he proceeded to argue against considering a candidate's religion.
- Americans believe in religious liberty therefore my Mormon religion ought not to be of concern to people.
- Americans don't have a federal religious test for public office therefore my Mormon religion should not be material in the election and you should not ask detailed questions about it.
- All religions bring people closer to God and are therefore good. (Consequently, Mormonism brings people closer to God and is therefore good.)
Some worry that in the Temple, Romney vowed with a blood oath to give all he has to help to implement the "LDS KINGDOM OF GOD" which is, in the minds of the LDS, an American theocracy that will be led by the Leaders of the LDS church, when our constitution 'hangs by a thread." In apparent answer to that concern he said "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." My question for Mr. Romney is, "Did you take such an oath and, if you did, will you live by it?"
Some worry that Romney believes that he will become a god, this according to both historic and contemporary teachings of Mormon theology. Likewise, some also worry because he is a High Priest in the Mechezidek priesthood and expects to become a polygamous god. They worry about the belief that Jesus and Satan are the common brothers of a flesh and blood Heavenly Father. They worry about the belief that the Heavenly Father was once a man and that we can become a god like the Heavenly Father. They worry about the belief that Jesus married three women and had children. The speech sidestepped those questions and focused on a more common vision of Jesus. He said, "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." He added that "these are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance."
I was disappointed with his evident confusion over the constitutional provision regarding a religious test. Romney said, "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." On this Romney heads in the wrong direction. Article VI, section 3 of the United States Constitution states that: "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
This provision precludes any religious screen that would prohibit any duly elected person from serving. It is completely unrelated to campaigning or who the public wishes to elect. If we don't want an atheist for President, we have that right to not vote for them. I fear that this kind of disingenuous argument will be used to shield from scrutiny all manner of candidates in the future. They could just say that the question "sounds religious" and not answer.
I was also disappointed by the universalist slant that he gave to all religions when he said, "I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God." So the Hindu faith with its hundreds of millions of Hindu gods draws them closer to God. Had he said one can probably find something good in every religion that would have made some sense. To say that every faith brings one closer to God is theological nonsense, even according to Mormon standards and doctrine, which claims it alone is the true church.
I was heartened by his discussion of separation of church and state. I thought it was the best part of his speech when he said, "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's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism. They are wrong."
I generally agree with his statement "A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith." However, a candidate's faith is not incidental either. Faith provides a worldview through which all of life is viewed. I have voted for Mormons in the past and I will almost certainly do so in the future. As a conservative Christian I have found many Mormons to be political allies although some like Harry Reid are profoundly opposed to my moral values.
One should not think that the rise of Mike Huckabee to surpass Mitt Romney in Iowa and elsewhere is primarily religious. The fact that one is a former minister and the other a current High Priest are not the main explanations. Those differences are mostly incidental rather than causative.