Kathryn Lopez

This seems to be the direction Romney is headed. When asked about "the Mormon problem," Romney says he is "a person of faith," and talks about "common values" among Mormons and other denominations: "The great majority of people -- Christian, non-Christian, and of different faiths -- look for values, character, integrity and vision and don't disqualify people on a religious test."

There is, of course, a worry that too much "common values" talk can water down one's religion, and thus weaken the overall role religion plays in public life. "Downplaying temple garments? What else do we want to demystify and de-weird for the sake of gains in popular opinion?" one LDS blogger recently wrote. "I'm all in favor of clarifying misconceptions, but eventually I am worried that we lose something vital."

This is a challenge that people of faith face in all walks of life --integrating what their faith teaches into their secular lives. Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., says that Romney "needs to spell out clearly his understanding of the separation of church and state" -- and to stress that this does not mean the separation of religious values from public-policy disputes.

In other words, Romney should go back earlier than JFK, and emulate George Washington. In his farewell address, the original George W. said: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them."


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.