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On Tuesday, Cathedral Age, a magazine produced by the Washington National Cathedral, published its interviews with President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. In "Faith in America," the quarterly asked each candidate questions about their perspectives on the role of religion in the public life of the nation. While Obama unsurprisingly praised the separation of church and state "embraced by people of faith and those of no faith at all throughout our history," Romney didn't merely claim that some "seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgement of God." Doubtless to the dismay of millions of non-Christian Americans, Romney once again proclaimed, "there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action."

As explained on its website, the Washington National Cathedral isn't just "a great and beautiful edifice in the city of Washington," but hopes to provide an indispensable ministry for people of all faiths and perspectives." Unfortunately, former bishop and stake president Romney didn't read the memo. Asked how the Cathedral can live out its calling to be the spiritual home for the nation, the same Mitt Romney who recently ran an ad denouncing President Obama's mythical "war on religion" responded in part:

From the beginning this nation trusted in God, not man.Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Bill of Rights. And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action. [emphasis mine]
If that sounds familiar, it should. As it turns out, Mitt Romney just copied and pasted the same offensive passage from his May commencement address at Liberty University.

During that speech in which he never mentioned the word "Mormon" (he used it once in his "Faith in America" address in 2007), Romney tried to explain to his audience "where we can meet in common purpose." Surely, Romney suggested to applause from his listeners in the crowd and among the GOP's evangelical base, they could agree on this (around the 9:00 mark above):

It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with. Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government.

But from the beginning, this nation trusted in God, not man. Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution. And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action. [emphasis mine]

Romney's message—No Jesus, No Dice—must have come as a surprise to the millions of Jews, atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and myriad other non-Christians in the United States of America. But it shouldn't have. As a review of his record shows, Romney for years has had a de facto religious test for true membership in the American community, one in which Jews, Muslims and non-believers apparently have second-class status—or simply no status at all.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

As I've documented previously, four and a half years ago during his much-hyped "Faith in America" speech, Romney explained that "No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith" and warned:

"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."
Sadly, during his last presidential bid, Romney endorsed precisely that very religious test for followers of Islam or no faith at all.

In November 2007, the former Massachusetts governor said as much to Mansoor Ijaz at a fundraiser in Las Vegas. As Ijaz recounted:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "...based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
Despite Romney's subsequent denials, Greg Sargent and Steve Benen documented other witnesses and other occasions during which Mitt repeated his No Muslims Need Apply policy.

Given his own membership in a small religious minority, one might expect more openness and tolerance from the Mormon Romney. But in 2006, Romney declared, "People in this country want a person of faith to lead them as their president." In December 2007, Gov. Romney upped the ante by insisting, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." And in his "Faith in America" speech that month, Mitt seemingly added atheists to his list of those to be excluded from the American community (around the 7:30 mark):
"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims."
(Just as long as those frequent prayers weren't going to be heard in President Romney's Cabinet room.)

That nonbelievers had no place in leading Mitt Romney's America was remarked upon by conservative commentators at the time. While Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review asked "what about atheists and agnostics?" David Brooks of the New York Times concluded that Romney "asked people to submerge their religious convictions for the sake of solidarity in a culture war without end." Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wondered:

"Why did Mr. Romney not do the obvious thing and include them? My guess: It would have been reported, and some idiots would have seen it and been offended that this Romney character likes to laud atheists. And he would have lost the idiot vote."
And as Mitt Romney decided during his first run for the White House, you can't win the Republican nomination if you lose the idiot vote. So he dumbed down his own faith to make it more palatable to the GOP's evangelical base, much to the consternation of his fellow Latter Day Saints. The New Republic's Josh Patashnik explained Mitt's quandary back in November 2007:
During an interview earlier this year with George Stephanopoulos, the presidential candidate disputed the suggestion that Christ would someday return to the United States rather than the Middle East. Mormons, he said, believe "that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem. ... It's the same as the other Christian tradition."

This was both technically correct and completely misleading: The church's position is that, while Christ will indeed appear at the Mount of Olives, he will also build a new Jerusalem in Jackson County, Missouri, which will serve as the seat of his 1,000-year reign on Earth. Romney had conveniently neglected to mention this part of his church's doctrine.

Needless to say, his fellow Mormons were none too pleased. "Brother Romney is playing a little bit of a political game with his answer," one church official told Lee Benson of the Deseret Morning News--in a column noting that Romney's comment had "caused more than a few members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ... to scratch their heads as if to say, 'What the flip?'" Callers to a Utah talk-radio show lambasted the candidate for misrepresenting church teachings. And the Mormon blogosphere--known as the Bloggernacle--buzzed with discussion of the quote. One post on the blog Mormon Mentality condemned Romney for being "evasive," while another complained, "If he were so proud to be a Mormon, he should tell the truth."

Mitt Romney has repeatedly said he is proud to be a Mormon. But he is apparently far more frightened of not becoming president of the United States. And that truth means that only by accident will Romney tell the truth about what he really thinks about America's diverse religions, including his own.

Of course, you'd never know that if you didn't get past the part of Cathedral Age interview where Romney proclaims, "Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree."

Truer words were never spoken. But whether Mitt Romney really believes them, that is, whether he thinks religious tolerance is for me and not thee, is for the voters to decide.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:18 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  except secular public policy keeping FSM-fans (4+ / 0-)

    at bay

    there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.

    Don't roof rack me bro', Now the brown's comin' down; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Ensanguining the skies...Falls the remorseful day".政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:23:57 PM PDT

  •  Well It's the Christian Party After All. (13+ / 0-)

    They don't hide that fact under a bushel.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:27:39 PM PDT

  •  Romney has no concience... (12+ / 0-)

    ...Christian or otherwise.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:31:22 PM PDT

  •  Mitt Romney ... (12+ / 0-)

    I had a discussion with friends the other day and one of them said jokingly that: If Mitt Romney fails to win the Presidency 2012, Mitt would have NO SHAME running as a Democrat in 2016 and negating everything he is saying right now.
    Of course it seems very far fetched, but that simply shows how desperate the man is to become president. Romney would do ANYTHING to become president.

    I watched some of the previous exchanges of Mitt Romney when he was a governor and some of the testy exchanges he had in previous debates (MA Governor, Senate, ...) This man is not afraid to look people in the eyes and lie to them.
    And this man is a religious leader at his church?

    •  He's really (6+ / 0-)

      Lower than pond scum.  I totally detest him the lying smerk that he always has on his face.

      Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011)

      by Rosalie907 on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:49:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  2016: Mitt who™? (4+ / 0-)

        He could run, but he can't hide...from his record!

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:51:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wanna bet (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          happymisanthropy

          The Obama haters don't care.  Romney could be the Devil in human form and they would still vote for him over Obama because at least he's white.

          Never be afraid to voice your opinion and fight for it . Corporations aren't people, they're Republicans (Rev Al Sharpton 10/7/2011)

          by Rosalie907 on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 07:55:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We're talking 2016 here... (0+ / 0-)

            ...Romney will be 4 years older, and President Obama will be finishing up his second term. Romney flipping to being a faux Democrat would never fly, and if he runs as a Republican, he'll probablt face Ryan and Santorum. And if you are amongst those that think he has cerebral problems (due to age and or that auto accident), he may be even more bizarre than now, having problems with more than donuts and tree heights.

            As for who will be the Democratic nominee, I have no idea, although I have my own favorites.

            Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

            by JeffW on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 08:19:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nobody is saying he will succeed ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              happymisanthropy, JeffW

              There are plenty of republicans he hasn't been able to fool. I remember, when Fox News did everything they could to prevent him from winning in the primaries. And there was a time, when he wouldn't even show up for an interview on Fox News.
              Again, nobody is saying he will win, but having watched this guy a few times, I won't be surprised if he attempts another reconversion ... After all wouldn't just be Mitt being Mitt?

  •  LOL! (4+ / 0-)
    The church's position is that, while Christ will indeed appear at the Mount of Olives, he will also build a new Jerusalem in Jackson County, Missouri, which will serve as the seat of his 1,000-year reign on Earth.

    If Obama didn't get Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger; then Bin Laden didn't take down the World Trade Center because he didn't fly the planes.

    by Bush Bites on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 06:48:02 PM PDT

  •  Whadda douche. (7+ / 0-)
    It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with. Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government.
    Or it could be that we see hypocrites trying to equate "exercise of faith" and "religious conscience" with "Voting for Me", and figure that's a danger to the free exercise of one's religious conscience.

    "My taxes are of the legally correct height, and the core reason for my campaign is to make them a different, lower height, and it is none of your business what precisely either of those heights might be." Mitt, as channelled by Hunter.

    by Inland on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 07:08:32 PM PDT

  •  Considering the similarities of Islam and LDS (6+ / 0-)

    You would think Romney would be a little more understanding of Islam. Both Joseph Smith and Muhammad claimed to be the final prophet in the Abrahamic tradition. Both gave the world a sacred text that had been delivered to them from the Almighty. Both prophets were not averse to violence in defence of their faith. Joseph Smith relied on his Danite gumen and died with a pistol in hand ;and Muhammad led amies against enemies of the faith.

    Such similarities ought to promote tolerance, not disdain.

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 07:25:15 PM PDT

    •  What about the four wives? (0+ / 0-)

      Sometimes I think Joseph Smith ripped a lot off Muhammad...

      The founding fathers knew of the mutually corrupting influences of Church and state, wisely sending them to opposite corners.

      by emidesu on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 09:34:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Republished to Street Prophets. nt (4+ / 0-)
  •  The idea of living in a "Christian Nation" (9+ / 0-)

    I actually discuss this with my (Hebrew High School and youth group) students all the time.

    On the one hand, we live in a country with no official religion. On the other hand, the influence of Christianity is all over the place; One need only look at just about every public school calendar in the country to see which religion we favor in American life. (hint - NOT Zoroastrianism)

    That having been said, and even if Romney truly believes this (and for all I know, Obama feels the same way!), this is a sentiment that a serious national candidate should never express. Part of being President is the power of the pulpit; the power that when you speak, the entire country listens.

    The President has an obligation to make every American feel welcome, wether the President shares common beliefs with them or not. Highlighting one tradition as THE greatest force for good should make any non-Christian worried about what might happen were Romney to have the power of the pulpit.

  •  Oh, yeah, I wish I could say this was a surprise, (0+ / 0-)

    but no, it's not. There are certain brands of Christianity that espouse an antagonistic chauvinism that knows no bounds of decency.

    That's who he wants on board, though. I suppose it is heartening to see that, this deep in the game, he is still trying to suck up to, and solidify with, the freak base of the GOP. This is the stage in the game where a real candidate should be shifting to placate the moderate middle-- not still laying foundations with the home team.

  •  snce when do these reflect Christian conscience? (0+ / 0-)
    And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and sick,
    Boy if these are anything but anathema to many Christians, you sure couldn't tell from their politics. As an outsider it is hard to remember that these values come within Christian thinking at all. It seems secular types score way better on these.   I know that's not true for most Christians, only for the ones who get air time though.  

    Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

    by Mindful Nature on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 09:21:44 PM PDT

  •  eh. Obama knows that he has the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder

    broad-based support and popularity which will let him get away with taking such a massively heretical position as support for separaton of church and state. Romney knows he has no such popularity and daren't go there and sticks with business as usual. This will not hurt him.

    Listen for the outraged hue and cry from every pastor, preacher, deacon, priest, bishop and the like throughout the land. I call your attention "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 09:37:20 PM PDT

    •  Christian fascists are attempting to shanghai (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, Cassandra Waites

      all Christians by forcing a common enemy (atheist Muslim socialist Satan) onto them and force their very narrow misinterpretation of the Bible.

      Ultimately it was secularism that allowed Christianity to flourish in so many forms. If the Dominionists won the battle to establish a "Christian state" and attempted to shoehorn all of the sects into one rigidly controlled ideological straitjacket then we'll see a disintegration and total chaos on the right.

      The key for the rest of us to defeat dominionism is to form a coalition of the entire spectrum of belief and non-belief including any fundamentalists who have enough sense not to want a "Christian state".

      Ultimately, a thinking Christian knows that the state is about power and by redefining Christianity as a political force (as opposed to Christians as individuals having political rights ) the purpose and meaning of Christianity will be lost. This has been demonstrated throughout history.

      You can't make this stuff up.

      by David54 on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 04:39:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, this stuff happens constantly, and (0+ / 0-)

        there is always a bunch of stuff from people saying that it is a fringe, christian fascists, fundies, etc. trying to hijack Xtianity, but I just don't see that as factual.

        1) Christianity has been political since at least Constantine's time, most of its existence.

        2) The history of most of that history is pretty fascist as far ars the organized chrch(es) go.

        3) The widespread hue and cry condemning this shit, at all levels of all churches, is pretty much invariable crickets. A few press releases from Americans United and a handful of others, but that is it. The mainstream of Christianity, right now for example, isn't howling about this at all. Why? The simplest answer is that they don't find it howl worthy.

        That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

        by enhydra lutris on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 11:02:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Mormons need not worry about (0+ / 0-)

    Romney not showing his pride in his religion. When he doesn't, he is only lying for the lord.

    Re-elect Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI). Screw Pete Hoekstra.

    by BitterEnvy on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 06:50:28 AM PDT

  •  Romney might be able to skate on this (0+ / 0-)

    based on the fact that Christians are so numerous. He didn't say "only" force for good, just "no greater" ... and so the consciences of 200M Christian ARE a greater force than the consciences of 100M non-Christians.

    Romney economics: Feed our seed corn to the fattest pigs and trust them to poop out jobs.

    by blue aardvark on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 07:06:24 AM PDT

  •  Let's Look at the Numbers (0+ / 0-)
    "...based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration."
    Doesn't that in and of itself imply a religious test? For the record, the demographics of the US are approximately:

    Catholic 25%
    Baptist 16%
    Agnostic/Atheist/None 15%
    Mormon 1.4%
    Jewish 1.2%
    Muslim 0.6%

    Should we expect equal numbers of Baptists and Agnostics/Atheists/Nones in a Romney cabinet? And a predominantly Catholic Executive Branch?

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Wed Aug 22, 2012 at 07:13:07 AM PDT

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