Yesterday was a federal holiday honoring a religious celebration; if there is a War on Christmas, Christmas is winning. So this is as good a time as any to discuss Mitt Romney’s religion, and the separation of church and state.
One of the unwritten rules of American politics is that you should never express disappointment with the voters. They can express their disappointment with you, each time you’re on the ballot. But it’s strictly a one-way street.
Nevertheless, I was disappointed to read last Thursday that a Mason-Dixon poll found that 26% of all American voters would be “uncomfortable” with a Mormon as President. Last month, a Public Religion Research Institute poll put that figure at more than 40%. In June, a Quinnipiac poll put the figure at 36%. And a Gallup Poll in June found that 22% of all voters would not support any Presidential candidate who is an active Mormon.
The Constitution could not possibly be clearer on this point. The penultimate sentence of the Constitution states: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Note that this was in the original Constitution; the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights came later.
In fact, the Founding Fathers had very strong views on this subject. This is reflected in the inscription on Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone, which Jefferson wrote himself. The tombstone identifies Jefferson’s three proudest accomplishments – interestingly, his being President for eight years didn’t make the cut. Instead, Jefferson’s tombstone recognizes Jefferson as (1) the author of the Declaration of Independence, (2) founder of the University of Virginia, and (3) author of the “Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom.” That statute eliminated the Anglican Church as the official state religion of Virginia, and opened state government to all religions.
Perhaps this is one of those times when people need to be reminded of what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” Bigotry is wrong, whether it’s directed against African-Americans, gays, Jews or Mormons.
Mitt Romney got this right, in a speech during his 2008 campaign. He said: “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.”
Amen to that, Brother.
It’s not that I’m soft on Romney. When Newsweek asked me about Mitt Romney a couple of weeks ago, the only good thing that I could say about him is that “he would be less bad than some of the other candidates who are running for the Republican nomination.” Mark Shields said that Romney has “more positions than the Kama Sutra.” When I watch Romney, I see someone so conflicted that he can’t make up his mind whether to flip or flop. And I never got to see the Republican Presidential debate that I really wanted to see: Romney 2006 vs. Romney 2011.
But here’s the thing: we need a President who will find jobs for the 24 million Americans who can’t find full-time work. We need a President who will find health care for the 50 million Americans who can’t see a doctor when they are sick. We need a President who will find food for the 48 million Americans who need government assistance to feed themselves.
You find me a President like that, and I don’t care if she is a left-handed, gay, differently-abled, Latino Mormon. Or a Moslem, Buddhist, atheist, Protestant, Catholic or Jew.
I just want someone who can do the job.