Atheists are the only people who appear to have been offended by Mitt Romney's speech about his Mormon faith. Judging by the reaction contained in some newspaper columns, editorials and letters to the editor, atheists are said to have felt "excluded" by Romney's failure to acknowledge that tolerance of the anti-religious is part of America's tradition.
Most everyone else thought it a good speech and that Romney had the correct view of the proper roles of church and state while refusing to compromise his personal convictions.
What no one mentioned (so I will) is the curious practice by a substantial number of voters who require our presidential candidates to acknowledge faith in God. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits a "religious test" for office, but that hasn't stopped many, especially in Iowa, from requiring statements of evangelical faith before deciding for whom to vote.
Does one expect to know the spiritual bona fides of an individual, other than pastor or religious worker, for any other job?
In the 1970s, a curiosity called the "Christian Yellow Pages" made the rounds of churches and certain businesses run by evangelicals. It contained names of professions one finds in the regular Yellow Pages - plumbers, taxi drivers, auto mechanics, dry cleaners - except these were owned and operated by certified, God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians. The clear implication was that businesses found in the Christian Yellow Pages would do a better job at a better price than the presumed "heathen" who advertised in the bigger yellow book.
I never saw any data that proved a connection between faith in Jesus and the ability to repair a car at a reasonable cost, so I usually went with the shop that did the best job at the lowest price and didn't bother to ask if the repairman went to church.
Voters who require statements of faith from presidential candidates risk disappointment. Many evangelicals who voted for Jimmy Carter regretted having done so when they saw his post-election policies and what they regarded as his incompetence as president. Bill Clinton could quote Scripture, but not many would hold him up as an evangelical icon, given his roving eye and impeachment for lying under oath.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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