Thursday, December 6, 2007

Romney's Speech on Religious Freedom in America

I have to say that Mitt Romney exceeded my hopes and expectations with his speech about Religious Freedom in America. It wasn't a perfect message, of course, but it deserves praise for what it did well. That speech was Romney at his best. I'm even going to revise the title of my previous blog post criticizing his potential speech; to my way of thinking, at least, that was a speech that mattered and made a good difference in the world.

I truly admired his clear and unabashed references to religion in the lives of our founders, in the "symphony" of faiths in our current populace, and in his personal life. He focused on common beliefs, bore a sincere testimony, didn't back away from his beliefs, and really delivered . . . maybe Paul could use him in the cabinet somewhere. I'd back that. :]

I still think he is over the top when he cites "radical Islam" itself as America's greatest danger, but he was pretty careful in that speech to both openly praise the good, common beliefs of many faiths in America (including Muslims) and specify that it's only the radical Muslims he believes we need to fear. I'll stick my neck out and profer that I honestly fear radical Christians and Secularists in this country (like those inventing some of the belligerent-imperialist worldviews that Romney seems to have bought into so deeply) as much or more than radical Muslims. Somehow Romney seems blinded to this. Radical Muslims frighten him. Radical Secularists worry him. Heck, I'm concerned about both of those as well. But he doesn't seem to see the common thread that would indicate that radical anything is pretty scary.

Nevertheless, any mainstream politician that is willing to speak out in such an eloquent and sincere way in the defense of the good in religion – and a brazen belief in God – impresses me. It is simply a fact that such beliefs defined our Founding Fathers. The idea that a number of them might have been skeptical about specific denominational observances is not necessarily anything derogatory – in fact it illuminates both their sense of reason and tolerance. Likewise, the fact that a few expressed a sense of deism in personal belief, for instance, still puts those founders a long way from secular atheism.

As Romney emphasized, our laws and principles were predicated on and informed by religious laws, principles, and a sincere belief in God. A thorough study at the University of Houston [examining nearly 15,000 political essays written between 1760 and 1805] shows that overwhelmingly the Bible was the most frequently quoted text informing political thought. (After that it was Blackstone, Montesque, Locke, etc. - but far behind the Bible.) You simply cannot understand the worldview of our Founding Fathers without considering their readings of the Bible and their beliefs about man's divine origin.

On the other hand, sometimes Romney seemed to go too far in his pandering to hard-core evangelicals. Not only did he not seem too worried about weaving in his traditional Islamic scare, but he didn't show much awareness or tolerance for those who might currently be lacking a specific faith. It would have been wonderful for Romney to reach out in tolerance, understanding, and exemplary confidence with a more inclusive and less condemning message but quite frankly I didn't expect the full wisdom of President Hinckley at the podium. Of the candidates who are in the race, if you want Romney's observance of our Christian foundations plus a thoughtful and inclusive message plus true regard for liberty then you should probably vote Ron Paul.

But Romney's heartfelt speech was successful in its ability to
convey both his own sincere convictions and the central role of religious expression in the foundation of this great nation. Romney highlighted that role and celebrates it – and he is right to do so.

That unique balance of devoutness and tolerance exhibited by our forbears – and laid out in our Constitution – is one of the most revolutionary characteristics of this great experiment we call the United States of America. It is still providing strength and liberty more than two centuries later.

[I'll post a youtube when I can get one. For now you can stream the speech from KSL]


carissa said...

It was an inspiring speech, all in all, and very eloquent. A couple of things stood out to me. As you mentioned, he said "We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny". I disagree with this. I think our greatest danger lies within our own country in the forms of moral decay and secret combinations (which are everywhere). I thought it was interesting how he went out of his way to reassure everyone that he would not be using his position as president to do the will of the church:

“Let me assure you that no authorities in my church will ever exert influence on presidential decisions”

“Their authority… ends where the affairs of the nation begin”

“I will put no doctrine above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law”

I wondered if he went a little too far with “That oath (presidential oath of office) becomes my highest promise to God”. His highest promise to God? Higher than temple covenants? Just wondering.

Toadicus Rex said...

I agree that it was eloquent. I heard those things you mentioned as well - and at first they gave me the same feeling they gave you.. but let me give you what I think is the intent.

1. “Let me assure you that no authorities in my church will ever exert influence on presidential decisions” - He would make the decisions, not turn the government over to the church. Since that's primarily what the paranoid among the evangelical community believes about him, I think it's a valid point. From inside the church we see it differently; but in all honesty he's speaking in their language, not ours.

2. “Their authority… ends where the affairs of the nation begin” - Absolutely correct. Simple matter of stewardship. While the Prophet is the prophet for the whole earth, his is not a secular calling and is not in his stewardship.

3.“I will put no doctrine above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law”
- Stated plainly, this is the same twisted evangelical belief that some bizarre cult that they rank up there with Islamic Fundamentalism would somehow take over the U.S.

As far as the line "highest promise to God", I think you're being oversensitive. I doubt if you were to confront him on this that he'd do anything but look at you like you're nuts. I don't think that's at all what he's saying; he's merely saying that it is a promise to him of the "highest order" of a promise.

Please note that these are all my opinions. I am more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on these issues rather than see corruption and conspiracy.

As far as the no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, I understand and agree with your statement to a certain point. But currently the forms you mentioned are not physical danger (in general). Sure, we see them, but the greatest danger today is still theocratic tyranny.

It's really important to understand the root of the concept of theocratic tyranny to understand what that sentence really means. You and Doug seem to get hung up on the idea of Al Qaida being the primary problem. It isn't.

carissa said...

I'm almost certain I would defend him in the same ways as you if I did give him the benefit of the doubt. But to be honest, I don't. I am skeptical of what he says. Here's a couple of questions for you if you don't mind:

1. If you could choose, would you allow the federal government a power (without an amendment) that you knew the founders did not intend it to have (not included in the constitution) simply because you can see a benefit to it?

2. Do you believe that we should build on the NATO alliance? Do you think this threat of "theocratic tyranny" justifies the creation of a global strategy with more integration, partnerships, and cross border cooperation?

Toadicus Rex said...


My responses:

1) No, I would not.

2) I have a hard time with treaties of any kind; however, in this situation, I believe the situation requires cooperation between countries.

Look, I recognize you and Doug's points. I sense the passionate nature of them when I find you both baiting me in your questions. But I don't agree with them. I don't see the corruption that you perceive. I don't expect my President to be perfect; I think that's hypocritical at best. I just think Mitt's a pretty good guy. I think he's moral. I think he has deep convictions that I share. I support that.

Doug said...


When speaking about Mitt Romney, what corruption and conspiracy are you referring to? I don't see anybody making either claim about Mitt on this site.

I can't speak for anybody else, but I find Mitt's desires to double Guantanamo, bomb Iran, and many other actions and issues that he glibly conflates together to be morally and logically deficient.

I love the guy as a regular person. I think we would both agree that he is seemingly 'more moral' on more issues than most politicians in the limelight today. I think that is awesome.

I'm not even accusing him of being willfully ignorant or malicious, but I honestly disagree with him that it is in anybody's best interest to cause all the 'collateral damage' that his militant stances would entail.

Quite frankly I expect better of him. He claims to have begrudgingly accepted how his [1968 Presidential candidate] father was right to turn against the government lies and other problems with our Vietnamese foreign policy. I see that begrudgingness as a moral issue in itself. I hope that someday [soon?] he has the courage, wisdom, and maturity to look at our foreign policy with a fresh honesty – like his father did before him.

I admire many of the moral values that I see shared and lived in Romney's life. But his apparent lack of respect for honesty in government [when it comes to our foreign policy] as well as a seeming lack of respect for the strength of diplomacy over belligerence are two moral failings I can't overlook this election.

carissa said...

"I just think Mitt's a pretty good guy. I think he's moral"

That's great and I agree, but the oath he would take as president is all about upholding and defending the constitution. And I just don't think he has demonstrated he cares as much about this part as Ron Paul has demonstrated he has.

#1-- you answered no. So would I. But Mitt Romney does not share that concern. Ezra Taft Benson said, "It is unconstitutional for the federal government to exercise any powers over education." This is true. But in Romney's own words, it is of no concern:

"Once upon a time I said I wanted to eliminate the department of education, that was my position when I ran for senate in 1994, that’s very popular with the base. As I’ve been a governor and seen the impact that the federal government can have holding down the interest of the teacher’s unions, and instead put in the interests of the kids, the parents, and the teachers first, I see that the department of education can actually make a difference, so I supported No Child Left Behind, I still do. I know there are a lot in my party that don’t like it but I like testing in our schools... And so I’m very proud of the position I’ve taken"

Without even debating whether federal involvement in education benefits the children, he sees a benefit to it, therefore it's okay, and he's proud to support it. What about the constitution? No mention, no concern. Anyone can go on and on about the good effects (or bad) that have resulted from federal involvement in social security, medicaid, homeland security, education, or any number of other programs. This should not deter us from standing by the constitution. If the government has no constitutional authority to be involved, it should not be involved — regardless of the perceived benefits. I personally believe that many of the problems in our schools that he wants to fix, were created by the federal government’s involvement in the first place (but that is besides the point).

#2-- I see no problem with creating temporary alliances during times of crisis. During his farewell George Washington said, "we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies". The problem is that they never seem to remain temporary. NATO should have been abandoned long ago. Ron Paul said:

" with most bureaucracies, the end of NATO’s mission did not mean the end of NATO. Instead, heads of NATO member states gathered in 1999 desperately attempting to devise new missions for the outdated and adrift alliance. This is where NATO moved from being a defensive alliance respecting the sovereignty of its members to an offensive and interventionist organization, concerned now with "economic, social and political difficulties...ethnic and religious rivalries, territorial disputes, inadequate or failed efforts at reform, the abuse of human rights, and the dissolution of states," in the words of the Washington 1999 Summit.

The further expansion of NATO is in reality a cover for increased US interventionism in Europe and beyond. It will be a conduit for more unconstitutional US foreign aid and US interference in the internal politics of member nations, especially the new members from the former East."

I believe Paul is right on this and I have to be skeptical of anyone who says things like:

"We should also look for new ways to strengthen regional cooperation and security partnerships..."

"the United States does not have to go it alone... new alliances need to be forged"

"we should build on the NATO alliance"

"If elected, one of my first acts as president would be to call for a summit of nations to address these issues.. The objective of the summit would be to create a worldwide strategy... I envision that the summit would lead to the creation of a Partnership for Prosperity and Progress"

"we must push for more integration and cross-border cooperation.."

Quotes from Mitt Romney's article in Foreign Affairs.

Of course, this idea is very popular so who am I to question it. Supranational unions and permanent alliances are all the rage these days. Traditional sovereignty is so out. We need to keep up with the times, I guess. After all, we already have all these:

European Union
African Union
Union of South American Nations
Pacific Union
Asian Union
Central Asian Union
Mediterranean Union
Independent Task Force on North America (North American Union)

"The EU's lead is being followed by the African Union, the Union of South American Nations, the Organization of Central American States, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A multitude of regional associations, aggregating most nations of the world, are at different stages of development towards a growing extent of economic, and sometimes political, integration." Wikipedia