The sad fact of the matter is that Romney's own blatant discrimination against Muslims in general [for political gain] – and his facile echoings of the exaggerations, slanders, and lies leveled against Islam generally – have hobbled him as a moral authority in speaking of respect for religious freedom in American politics.
Without doubt, there would be some hypocrisy in Romney going before the American people and talking up the cherished freedom of religion that we all enjoy. It would be disingenuous to propose that he strictly embodies his own religious creed that
"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."In saying this, let me emphasize that I am not questioning his faithfulness as a Mormon. Indeed, I've commented many times that I think Mitt Romney is an excellent example of a faithful Mormon for the public eye. He is positive, cheerful, sober, intelligent, hard-working, and – very impressive to me as a father of four boys – appears to have the strong support of five remarkably successful sons. His relationship with his wife and children is a strong testament to me of his character. One that can simply not be dismissed.
Furthermore, contrary to some, I have been impressed with nearly every instance where I've seen him pressed on Mormon doctrine, culture, and beliefs. His knowledge, practice, and well-spoken answers leave me sincerely impressed with Mitt as one attempting to live as a "Latter Day Saint". It is no wonder that he has served in various ecclesiastical leadership positions and I am well satisfied that he has done as well as anyone can in those capacities – which is no small feat. And a great sacrifice which few outside the faith are likely to be aware of.
On the other hand, I've never met a perfect person and consequently I've never known a perfect Mormon. Tragically, one of the only public failings that I've seen evinced in Mitt Romney coincides bafflingly with the question of religious bigotry. [His other public failings seem inextricably linked with this. As much as I like Mitt the person, many of his weaknesses are right where I think our nation's leadership is most lacking at the moment.]
Following lock-step in the dubious advice of such Washington luminaries as Cofer Black (VP of Blackwater) and Norman Podhoretz (publicly "praying" that we bomb Iran regardless of diplomacy), Mitt Romney has made anti-Muslim-defamation a key plank in his presidential platform. As Massachusetts governor he proposed specifically wiretapping every Mosque suspected of preaching "hate" and investigating every University student from a known Islamic nation. As a presidential candidate he has talked numerous times about the imminent danger of a present war that will end only with a Muslim 'caliphate.' Consciously or not, he is a key figure spreading the fear that Muslims generally advocate the violent overthrow of the world's nations in order to unite under a pure Islamic leader. And he is using that fear to pander to the frightened for their votes.
There is something profoundly wrong with promulgating the known falsehood that the Muslim religion *itself* is filled with hatred, blasphemous genocidal justification, and dangerous fanatical calls to 'jihad' – and then asking the American people to overlook any of the probably over-wrought falsehoods about his own religion that they may have heard.
Indeed, almost every world religion can be painted as dangerous and full of fanatics. Ironically, Muslims share many of the same criticisms as the Jews and the Christians. The Old Testament has a great number of frighteningly black or white calls for God's People to entirely wipe out another nation, for instance, or stone – to death – an apparent sinner. Those passages are certainly not, in my opinion, precisely representative of the larger text. And neither are the few similar passages in the Koran.
Nevertheless, you can always find a modern rabbi, or Christian preacher [with an actual following] who emphasizes such frightening passages in ways that the majority of Jews or Christians would be quick to repudiate. Additionally, you don't have to look very far in the past to find Christian [or Jewish] leadership colluding with (or at least appeasing) evil madmen intent on murdering innocent populations of people to make political statements. The local Catholic leadership's relationship in Germany and Spain with Hitler and Franco, respectively, are just two well-known examples. Despite what some will say are crucial differences inherent in the Muslim faith that the 'politically correct' crowd is glossing over, it simply is not so.
Given his religious heritage, I find it especially disturbing that Romney would embrace such obvious distortion and bigotry about another faith. A century and a half ago, his religious ancestors found such fears and slanders of their own beliefs magnified to the point that the surrounding populations in Missouri and Illinois were agitated to violence against the Mormons generally. Much of it was later found to be orchestrated by evil-intentioned politicians and mis-informed, but well-intentioned, religious people.
If Mitt Romney wants to offer "True Strength for America's Future", he would do well to consider if the founders had divine inspiration in protecting diverse religious freedoms and why it was that stunning portion of Joseph's Smith's letter [written to John Wentworth of the Chicago Democrat – and containing a resolute defense of the sanctity of individual religious thought in Article 11 –] was canonized in his personal religious tradition.
Unfortunately, it is clear that Romney is so far down the road of defamation against a particular religious tradition – so contrary to both his own private religious conviction and what he must ask of the general populace for himself – that he cannot in all sincerity speak of it effectively during this campaign.