Romney: ‘No candidate should
become the spokesman for his faith’
By Ken Camp
COLLEGE STATION—People of faith who value religious liberty “have a friend and an ally in me,” but promoters of the “religion of secularism” who want to strip religion from the public square do not, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential contender and a Mormon, told religious and social conservatives in Texas.
Romney spoke to invited guests at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.
The venue is less than 100 miles from Houston, where John F. Kennedy spoke to Baptist ministers in 1960 to assure them his Roman Catholic faith would not unduly influence his decisions as president, and Romney alluded to Kennedy’s speech.
“Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president,” Romney said.
“Like him, 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.”
Like Kennedy, Romney asserted his belief in the institutional separation of church and state. He insisted he would not allow any Mormon church authority to exert influence over presidential decisions, and he would not put any church doctrine above presidential duties.
“If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States,” he said.
However, Romney refused to disavow any tenets his Mormon faith, which many evangelicals characterize as a cult.
“I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs,” he said, adding that if his personal beliefs damage his presidential hopes, “so be it.”
But just as the Constitution allows no religious test for public office, he expressed confidence that his commitment to Mormonism would not end his candidacy. Rather, he said, the American people rightly would question his character if he turned his back on his personal beliefs to advance his candidacy.
“Americans do not respect believers of convenience,” he said.
Romney specifically affirmed his belief in Jesus Christ as “the Son of God and the Savior of mankind,” but he declined to address the specific doctrines of Mormonism that distinguish it from other faiths.
“Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree,” he 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. 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.”
Adherents of all major religion “share a common creed of moral convictions,” he said.
While Romney stressed that religious liberty is “fundamental to America’s greatness,” he affirmed public displays of civil piety such as references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance and on currency, and he expressed approval for “nativity scenes and menorahs” displayed in the public square.
The United States benefits from its moral and religious heritage drawn from multiple sources—“our nation’s symphony of faith,” Romney said.
“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,’” he said.
Some people have carried separation of church and state too far by seeking to have any reference to America’s religious heritage or its dependence on God removed from public life, Romney asserted.
“It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America—the religion of secularism. They are wrong,” he said.
“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together or perish alone.”