Romney: Religious Liberty versus Establishment

Some of the political pundits are panning Governor Mitt Romney's speech "Faith in America" for several reasons. It didn't defend the tenets of Mormonism, it didn't directly answer criticisms of his policy positions, and it didn't have a defined audience. 

They're missing the point. 

This was not a speech for Evangelical Christian leaders, although some were in the audience.  This speech was not for Conservative political leaders, although they were represented, as well.  This was not a speech for the media, although there were plenty present for it.  This speech was not even for the Republican faithful, although many were there.

This speech was for the American people.

Reaching above the heads of the media and past political pundits, Mitt Romney spoke to the heart of the American people - reminding us that the very basis for the creation of the United States was religious freedom and highlighting the tolerance that this country finally achieved during the struggle for independence.

"Recall the early days of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, during the fall of 1774. With Boston occupied by British troops, there were rumors of imminent hostilities and fears of an impending war. In this time of peril, someone suggested that they pray.  But there were objections.  ‘They were too divided in religious sentiments', what with Episcopalians and Quakers, Anabaptists and Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Catholics," Governor Romney said.  "Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot.  And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God ... they founded this great nation."
That is the essence of America, and Governor Romney hit the nail on the head.

Answering the critics and those concerned about the influence that his Church might have on his presidency, Romney 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 theprovince of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." 
Governor Romney could not be clearer.  He pointed to his record as Governor in thisregard, and repeated himself in several ways:

"I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.

"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 onereligion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest.  A President must serve only the common causeof the people of the United States."
This common cause is the point -- people of faith share values, ethics and a vision for this country. Americans are pervasively religious, and Romney eloquently outlined positive features of several religions practiced in this country.  This should give comfort to those religions' adherents --  he understands what speaks to them about their worship, and he values it.  Romney called this "our nation's symphony of faith."

Governor Romney rightfully declined to defend the tenets of his faith.  These "disputations" were a common feature of the Spanish Inquisition and used against Jews.  They are designed to undermine the legitimacy of the minority faith -- even if the representative of that faith wins the debate.  Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides) participated in one such disputation in July 1263.  While most people of the day thought that the Rabbi prevailed, he won the battle but lost the war.  Nachmanides was expelled from Spain. 

America was created as a cure for this type of religious persecution.

But, Romney rose above these nasty attacks upon his beliefs.  He reminded the American people that the real battle in the United States is not between religions.  It is about religion itself, and whether it there is a place for God in the public square.

This is a major, largely unspoken, theme in this election.

Are we a "nation under God" or just a nation? 

Romney outlined this struggle stating that those who invoke separation of church and state actually are using this theme to establish "a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism."

This country was not just founded to ensure religious freedom, Romney said, but freedom exists when religion is openly and actively practiced.  "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," Romney stated. 

"Freedom opens the windows of the soul sothat man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God.  Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
To drive home this point, Romney cited the beautiful European Cathedrals of those countries' state religions. He called them "postcard backdrops" that remain empty, while American churches are full and growing.  This was a subtle point -- not just about the religious differences between America and Europe, but also between Republican candidates and even between Republicans and Democrats.

While Governor Huckabee seeks to paint himself as the true "Christian leader" -- a la Pat Robertson in another year -- Romney positions himself as the defender of religious freedom.  Huckabee even goes further, having campaign literature that only a Christian should hold public office and evading a question about whether Jews can go to Heaven.  Romney cited incidents of religious intolerance in colonial history that resulted in persecution and expulsion -- a time that was transcended with the creation of our country.

Do we really want to go back to that point?  Do we now want to have a religious test for political office?  That would destroy the Constitution at its very core. 

On the other side of the coin, the Democrats seek to expel God from our national culture -- no matter the expression or tradition.  They look to Europe for leadership and find common cause with "Western liberalism" that dominates in Europe, not with the shared values between Americans regardless of religion.

And, that brings us to the other threat America is facing: radical jihadists or Islamist fundamentalists. While Americans argue about which religion makes one "legitimate" or if religious speech or thought is appropriate, we ignore the threat that seeks to impose a "theocratic tyranny" on us all.  The Inquisition does not exist anymore.  Let's not bring it back.

Mitt Romney gets it. He understands that our strength is our religious freedom and tolerance.  This is the light that America provides for the rest of the world, and it is the very idea that enrages those who seek to end liberty and impose their radical form of religion. 

Before anyone says "it can't happen here" think about what is going on in Europe.  France, Italy, Belgium, Britain and other Western European countries are being overrun by Muslims who do seek to use "Western liberalism" to impose radical Islam.  This is the result of the prescription that the Democrats are writing for America. We only have to look at the riots in France and the murders of those who speak freely against Islam to know what future that would bring.

Amy D. Goldstein is an occasional contributor to American Thinker.
Some of the political pundits are panning Governor Mitt Romney's speech "Faith in America" for several reasons. It didn't defend the tenets of Mormonism, it didn't directly answer criticisms of his policy positions, and it didn't have a defined audience. 

They're missing the point. 

This was not a speech for Evangelical Christian leaders, although some were in the audience.  This speech was not for Conservative political leaders, although they were represented, as well.  This was not a speech for the media, although there were plenty present for it.  This speech was not even for the Republican faithful, although many were there.

This speech was for the American people.

Reaching above the heads of the media and past political pundits, Mitt Romney spoke to the heart of the American people - reminding us that the very basis for the creation of the United States was religious freedom and highlighting the tolerance that this country finally achieved during the struggle for independence.

"Recall the early days of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, during the fall of 1774. With Boston occupied by British troops, there were rumors of imminent hostilities and fears of an impending war. In this time of peril, someone suggested that they pray.  But there were objections.  ‘They were too divided in religious sentiments', what with Episcopalians and Quakers, Anabaptists and Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Catholics," Governor Romney said.  "Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot.  And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God ... they founded this great nation."
That is the essence of America, and Governor Romney hit the nail on the head.

Answering the critics and those concerned about the influence that his Church might have on his presidency, Romney 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 theprovince of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." 
Governor Romney could not be clearer.  He pointed to his record as Governor in thisregard, and repeated himself in several ways:

"I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law.

"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 onereligion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest.  A President must serve only the common causeof the people of the United States."
This common cause is the point -- people of faith share values, ethics and a vision for this country. Americans are pervasively religious, and Romney eloquently outlined positive features of several religions practiced in this country.  This should give comfort to those religions' adherents --  he understands what speaks to them about their worship, and he values it.  Romney called this "our nation's symphony of faith."

Governor Romney rightfully declined to defend the tenets of his faith.  These "disputations" were a common feature of the Spanish Inquisition and used against Jews.  They are designed to undermine the legitimacy of the minority faith -- even if the representative of that faith wins the debate.  Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (Nachmanides) participated in one such disputation in July 1263.  While most people of the day thought that the Rabbi prevailed, he won the battle but lost the war.  Nachmanides was expelled from Spain. 

America was created as a cure for this type of religious persecution.

But, Romney rose above these nasty attacks upon his beliefs.  He reminded the American people that the real battle in the United States is not between religions.  It is about religion itself, and whether it there is a place for God in the public square.

This is a major, largely unspoken, theme in this election.

Are we a "nation under God" or just a nation? 

Romney outlined this struggle stating that those who invoke separation of church and state actually are using this theme to establish "a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism."

This country was not just founded to ensure religious freedom, Romney said, but freedom exists when religion is openly and actively practiced.  "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," Romney stated. 

"Freedom opens the windows of the soul sothat man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God.  Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
To drive home this point, Romney cited the beautiful European Cathedrals of those countries' state religions. He called them "postcard backdrops" that remain empty, while American churches are full and growing.  This was a subtle point -- not just about the religious differences between America and Europe, but also between Republican candidates and even between Republicans and Democrats.

While Governor Huckabee seeks to paint himself as the true "Christian leader" -- a la Pat Robertson in another year -- Romney positions himself as the defender of religious freedom.  Huckabee even goes further, having campaign literature that only a Christian should hold public office and evading a question about whether Jews can go to Heaven.  Romney cited incidents of religious intolerance in colonial history that resulted in persecution and expulsion -- a time that was transcended with the creation of our country.

Do we really want to go back to that point?  Do we now want to have a religious test for political office?  That would destroy the Constitution at its very core. 

On the other side of the coin, the Democrats seek to expel God from our national culture -- no matter the expression or tradition.  They look to Europe for leadership and find common cause with "Western liberalism" that dominates in Europe, not with the shared values between Americans regardless of religion.

And, that brings us to the other threat America is facing: radical jihadists or Islamist fundamentalists. While Americans argue about which religion makes one "legitimate" or if religious speech or thought is appropriate, we ignore the threat that seeks to impose a "theocratic tyranny" on us all.  The Inquisition does not exist anymore.  Let's not bring it back.

Mitt Romney gets it. He understands that our strength is our religious freedom and tolerance.  This is the light that America provides for the rest of the world, and it is the very idea that enrages those who seek to end liberty and impose their radical form of religion. 

Before anyone says "it can't happen here" think about what is going on in Europe.  France, Italy, Belgium, Britain and other Western European countries are being overrun by Muslims who do seek to use "Western liberalism" to impose radical Islam.  This is the result of the prescription that the Democrats are writing for America. We only have to look at the riots in France and the murders of those who speak freely against Islam to know what future that would bring.

Amy D. Goldstein is an occasional contributor to American Thinker.