Mitt Romney's religion keeps coming up on the presidential campaign trail. He seems, at times, a little annoyed that this is the case. I am, too. Any American or admirer of the constitutional system would also be.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That fact alone could keep commentators in business. "Are they Christians?" "Was the Garden of Eden really in Missouri?" "And about the undergarments ..."
What all these questions have in common is that they have nothing to do with the presidency of the United States.
When a radio talk-show host pushed the theology questions a bit too far this summer, Romney responded: "I'm not going to have a conversation about what my church views are because ... that's not the nature of the office I'm running for."
Commentators suggest he give a speech on his religion, comparing it to John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. However, Romney's not likely to pull a Kennedy by defensively distancing himself from his religion. As Romney said to a colleague of mine in November, "I know there are some people hoping that I will simply declare in some way that my church is all well and good, but that I don't really believe it and I don't try to follow it. That's not going to happen. I'm proud of my faith. I love my faith. It is the faith of my fathers and mothers. I do my best to live by its teachings. And it in every way would teach me to follow the Constitution and follow the rule of law and recognize that my duty is to my country."
That is the American answer to the question about whether one's religion indicates one's fitness to lead this nation. We have no established religion, and we have no religious tests in our constitutional system. Romney's religion is a topic for religious conferences, not for talk shows. And it certainly should not keep a man from the White House.
An early November poll from The Wall Street Journal/NBC indicated that only 38 percent of respondents thought America is ready for a Mormon president. But this race has not gone national yet, and once the American people get the chance to meet Romney, they will see him as the qualified candidate with executive experience that he is.
Not everyone agrees, though. As one evangelical associated with another campaign tells me, "Sadly, I believe that many people ... will not vote for Romney simply because of his religion."
While there is a lot to quibble about with John F. Kennedy's speech, he was prescient about one thing: "For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew -- or a Quaker -- or a Unitarian-- or a Baptist."
It is that realization that won Nancy French over. Now an official "Evangelical for Mitt," French was originally staunchly against a Mormon for president for theological reasons. Ultimately, she realized, "People of faith united are much stronger than we would be if we splinter and fight amongst ourselves."
If you are not going to support Republican Mitt Romney for president because you don't think he is the guy to win the war on terror, that is your call. If you are pro-life and you do not buy his abortion conversion story, it's a free country. But if you are not going to support Mitt Romney for president because he is Mormon, or because you think he will not be elected president because he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, say your prayers for America.
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