This post is the first installment of a three-part series examining the question: Is it fair to question Mitt Romney's Mormonism?
“[T]he kingdom of God... is to be a POLITICAL INSTITUTION THAT SHALL HOLD SWAY OVER ALL THE EARTH; TO WHICH ALL OTHER GOVERNMENTS WILL BE SUBORDINATE AND BY WHICH THEY WILL BE DOMINATED.” B. H Roberts, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, 1900, p. 180 http://archive.org/stream/risefallofnauvoo00byu2robe#page/180/mode/2up
Our Constitution provides that there shall never be any religious test to hold office, and so it should be. Any otherwise qualified candidate may hold nay office regardless of their religion. But are we not allowed to examine everything about a candidate, including discussion of the tenets of their religion, especially when that candidate has put us all on notice that religion defines them?
Until recently, I considered the matter of a candidate’s religion to be out of bounds of proper political discourse. Lately I have had cause to reconsider, now that Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party in the upcoming presidential election with his unwavering and unapologetic adherence to a faith that includes apocalyptic absolutist theocratic views.
These sort of questions have been raised before and were directly answered by the candidate.In 1960, John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, was the Democratic nominee for President. The question of whether voters would select a Roman Catholic came down to essentially a single issue having to do with what influence the Church hierarchy would have on government policy. That question was foremost in the minds of many for most of the summer and fall. On September 15, just 59 days after receiving his party’s nomination, Kennedy addressed the matter head-on at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.
“I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.
I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected, on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject, I will make my decision in accordance with these views – in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.
But if the time should ever come – and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible – when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any other conscientious public servant would do likewise.
But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith; nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.
If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I'd tried my best and was fairly judged.
But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.”[i]
Kennedy’s answer was direct and effective, perhaps ending the question of whether or not a candidate’s religion matters once and for all. With his pledge to allow no religious interference in policy making he clearly reiterated separation of church and state. But does Kennedy’s answer settle the question once and for all? Did Romney give a satisfactory answer?
[i] John F. Kennedy, Address to the Houston Ministerial Association, September 12, 1960.