I wasn’t pre-disposed to liking Mitt Romney’s defense-of-Mormonism speech. I find Mormonism, like Scientology, to be a uniquely objectionable faith, based as it is on the work of an obvious con artist. More than that, it has a long history of misogyny and racism, a legacy about which it is deeply schizophrenic; it’s just plain bizarre to hear Gordon Hinckley, the President of the LDS church say that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ” when Brigham Young, the “Mormon Moses”, was pretty clearly such a man. All this makes it hard to see Mormonism as just another socially conservative denomination, which is the argument Romney’s trying to make.
But Romney’s speech made another argument too. Well, it’s not actually an argument so much as the act of flipping the bird to the First Amendment and every non-theist person, ever:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
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. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.
We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, 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 is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.
We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from ‘the God who gave us liberty.’
I’m not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired … so grand … so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe’s churches. And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away.
There are too many silly or downright despicable declarations to count here. There’s his explicit call for government to mock atheists by recognizing and promoting deities whenever possible. There’s his statement that the non-religious cannot truly believe in freedom. There’s the implication that Europe’s secularism is destroying the continent. And, predictably, there’s his statement that it’s unfair and bigoted for voters to question self-evidently silly aspects of his faith – like, for instance, the idea that Joseph Smith’s golden plates contained anything but gibberish. This is the laziest apologia for Mormonism possible combined with the most intense pandering to the religious right I’ve seen from Romney.