Saturday, December 08, 2007

'Stumbling Through the Looking Glass'

Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times acutely observes today that the political press "has sent us all stumbling right through the looking glass" in the wake of Mitt Romney's speech this week. Along the way, he offers a quick run-down of the numerous and weighty differences between Mitt Romney's pandering to the religious right-wing this week and John Kennedy's defense of the non-establishment clause.

The list is instructive:
Kennedy was straightforward; Romney was clever.

Kennedy spoke to a hostile audience of Protestant clergymen and took their questions afterward; Romney spoke to a hand-picked crowd at a Republican presidential library and took no questions.

Kennedy defended -- indeed, insisted on -- sepa
ration of church and state; Romney simply asked that what is essentially a religious test for office be expanded to include his religion.

Kennedy and his advisors
sought the advice of one of American-style religious liberty's foremost defenders -- the great Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray; Romney sought the counsel of political handlers skilled in stage managing the religious right.
Rutten also identifies more differences:
  • Kennedy used the word Catholic 14 times in his speech. Romney "used the word Mormon only once."
  • Kennedy affirmed his commitment to "an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." Romney urged a joinder of the two.
  • Kennedy reminded his audience that he had a voting record opposes to government subsidies for parochial schools. Romney was silent on the issue.
  • Kennedy expressly included secular humanists within his America. Romney derided them for "seeking to establish a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism." (Pretty bold for someone who subscribes to a faith that began in upstate New York in the 1820's during the "treasure hunting" craze.)
To be sure, every religion professes articles of faith that do not stand up well to objective examination. Mormonism in that regard is no different. So, when a political candidate for the highest office in the land insists that it's "appropriate to question candidates about their religious beliefs" he throws open a door that will reveal some very peculiar things. Among them is the distinct danger, repeatedly proven throughout human history, of divisive religious wars.

Romney should not be rejected as a candidate because he's a Mormon. He should be rejected because he openly advocates establishing religion in "the public square" -- precisely where our Founding Fathers did not want it because, inevitably, the next question always becomes "whose religion?"

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

Doesn't the Republican Party owe Americans a clear choice--a Huckabee-Romney or Romney-Huckabee ticket--that would, in effect, be a referendum on the separation of church and state?

The alternative is to keep allowing the Religious Right to keep dominating the American conversation far out of proportion to be their true numbers and in contradiction to a consensus that existed in the nation's politics since 1776 until Islamic terrorists gave Bush's Christian absolutists a climate of fear in which to propagate their own extremism.