If Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination, it will be due in large measure to his splendid and moving defense of his faith and beliefs delivered today at the George Bush Presidential Library.
The address was courageous in a way John F. Kennedy's speech to the Baptist ministers was not. Kennedy went to Houston to assure the ministers he agreed with them on virtually every issue where they differed with the Catholic agenda and that his faith would not affect any decision he made as president. He called himself "the Democratic Party's candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic."
It was like saying: "I happen to be left-handed. I can't help it."
Romney did not truckle. He did not suggest that his faith was irrelevant to the formation of his political philosophy. While declaring, "I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest," he did not back away an inch from his Mormon faith."
"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough," said Romney. "They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. 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."
If this costs me the presidency, said Romney, so be it.
That is the kind of defiance this country can never hear enough of.
What Romney was saying was: If you so dislike or resent my faith you will not vote for me if I stay true to it, don't vote for me. But that may say more about you than it does about me.
Questioned repeatedly on what he, as a Mormon, believes about Jesus Christ, a matter crucial to evangelicals, Romney replied:
"What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has it 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 if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree."
Surely that is right.
After defending his own faith, Romney declared himself a fighting ally of traditionalists and conservatives in the culture war against a militant secularism that is hostile to all faiths rooted in supernatural beliefs and that seeks to de-Christianize America.