Romney misses chances on religion

February 29, 2012


Mitt Romney has missed several golden opportunities to turn this campaign’s religious fixation to his advantage.

Given that polls show he faces prejudice among a sizable share of primary voters because of his Mormon faith, you would think Romney would be eager to try to redefine the role of faith in the election. But he keeps refusing to challenge those who would apply faith-based litmus tests, even though doing so would win him plaudits among the independents who will pick the next president. That’s probably because he fears it would backfire among those who will pick the GOP nominee.

It has been a dizzying two weeks in matters of church and state. First, the Obama administration unwisely attempted to force religious institutions to offer birth control coverage to their employees in contravention of church teachings. The administration exempted churches, but it should have done the same for church-related institutions from the get-go.

Forget for a moment the shortsightedness of an institution that opposes abortion but fails to recognize that contraception can prevent it. Whatever the basis of the church’s position, the government should not force it to act against its teachings. In doing so, the president served up a perfect political opportunity for his opponents to accuse him of waging war on religious freedom.

The next mistake, however, was the church’s. When the president came to his senses and offered a compromise that would not force the church to pay for contraception coverage, the bishops rebuffed it. Instead of declaring victory, they continued to fight.

In Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote in The Inquirer that the administration’s mandate, “including its latest variant, is belligerent, unnecessary, and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief.” He added that “no similarly aggressive attack on religious freedom in our country has occurred in recent memory.” And he concluded that the “mandate is bad law, and not merely bad, but dangerous and insulting. It needs to be withdrawn — now.”

Chaput and the other bishops overplayed a winning hand. Who is being intolerant when an employee of a Catholic-run hospital, charity, or college, who might not be Catholic herself, is told she cannot have access to birth control as part of her health insurance — even though her employer doesn’t have to pay for it?

It was into this crossfire that Rick Santorum stepped last weekend when he said the president was motivated by “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible.” When challenged by Bob Schieffer of CBS, Santorum thinly defended his comments as references to Obama’s environmental policies. But the remark seemed in keeping with the e-mail circulars many of us have received (“YOU MUST READ THIS”) that seek to portray Obama as an “other,” someone fundamentally different from the rest of us.

That’s when Romney should have stepped in and asked: What separates us from Iran or al-Qaida if we are going to pick our presidents according to religious litmus tests? Perhaps he could have quoted the First Amendment and reminded people that it ensures every American’s ability to exercise his faith, or to exercise no faith. But Romney remained silent.

And he stayed silent when Matt Drudge trumpeted a 2008 Santorum speech at Ave Maria University in which he invoked Satan while discussing abortion. “And the father of lies has his sights on what you think the father of lies, Satan, would have his sights on — a good, decent, powerful, influential country, the United States of America,” Santorum said.

And Romney was still silent a day later, when the Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, said on MSNBC that while he believed Santorum was a Christian, he couldn’t be sure whether Obama or Romney was. Maybe Graham was channeling the Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, who said in October that the Mormon Church was a cult. This week, Jeffress said he would hold his nose and vote for Romney. No doubt his antipathy is shared by the one-third of evangelical Christians who told the Pew Research Center that they would have a hard time voting for a Mormon.

All these developments gave Romney chances to remind the nation that this is not the election that ends with a cloud of white smoke over the Sistine Chapel. What did he do instead? He doubled down on his efforts to reach the party’s religious base, telling a Michigan crowd: “Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion.” And in the CNN debate last week in Arizona, he accused Obama of an “attack on religious conscience.”

That kind of talk may help Romney with some of the GOP faithful in upcoming primaries. But it is not likely to be forgotten by independents come this fall.

— Michael Smerconish writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may reach him through www.smerconish.com.


Ragingbear 5 years, 9 months ago

The reason is simple. The reason he doesn't make a big deal out of religion is because he's Mormon. If people took too close of a look at them, they would fear for the church's plan for this country.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 9 months ago

Even if there is such a "plan" (which I doubt), is Romney a part of it?

Paul R Getto 5 years, 9 months ago

I don't know why the Mormon thingie is an issue. Magical thinking is the same for all irrational beliefs. Leave the man alone. There is no religious test for running for office. Mormons actually do more missionary work than many of the other sects and help lots of people. Worry about a candidate's policy positions, not his personal life and beliefs.

Ragingbear 5 years, 9 months ago

The thing about Mormons is that they know what they are doing. They aren't disorganized by any means. They know how to run a business, and they know the law. Every time they got any member in any place of real power and influence, they start the process. It starts at small things like the price of coffee and tobacco. Then it grows. They use the concept of "Line upon line, precept upon precept" which ultimately leads to a similar situation of placing a frog in cool water and slowly warming it.

The problem is NOT with the doctrine. That is the thing. People aren't over worries about the doctrine. Deeper looks will show many things that don't raise many flags. However, if you look at the administrative side of things, you find a whole new story.

Let's hit a few concepts here. GOP'ers are all about "Obama is a socialist" and rant and rave against it. The Mormons are a socialist organization. All members are expected to have a "calling" in the church, which is assigned to them. These "callings" range anywhere from light janitorial work to overseeing multiple congregations in the spiritual and administrative sense. Not only that, but members do these jobs for free, and actually spend some of their own money in fulfilling the obligation. Some higher ups get a small stipend for travel and other expenses, but it truly is a small supplement. Usually the person in that position still takes a loss. So all members need to get real jobs as well.

They believe in "tithes' meaning to give %10 of your gross income to the church. Big deal, that exist in many mainstream churches. What many don't talk about is the "law of consecration" which is basically a suspended law and holy doctrine turning the entire church into a mega-commune. At this commune, any monies or resources are given to a governing person in the church, who then divvies it up and doles it out, putting a cut away in church coffers. These coffers are more than money. In many areas, there are warehouses of materials and raw resources (fuel, wood etc) throughout the Utah,Arizona,Idaho,Nevada and New Mexico area. These warehouses are monitored and regularly rotated.

The church owns stock in a wide variety public entities. I am not talking about church members, I am talking about the Church itself. It is notable that the Coca-Cola rumor is not true. Then you got to figure in how many companies have members in control. The Church tells them to run their business like the Church runs it's business, thus aligning them for further meddling, indirect influence and even possible takeover.

Ragingbear 5 years, 9 months ago

Vocational Rehabilitation programs are ran by the church. These programs employ 'the unemployable' for minimum wage. These people range from developmentally disabled individuals, to those that are just out of the legal system and desperately need a job so as to not have their parole revoked. They are used for menial labor and are told regularly that they aren't even like normal work peons because they won't be able to get a job anywhere else if they leave. The products made are then sold by the church for a substantial price while still remaining very cheap.

Taxes: This is something fun about the church. They have alluded to a concept that could easily be implemented with a simple modification of tax law. In summary, it would be that you get huge tax breaks by donating money to organizations that the church has the corner on. Think of faith based operations, only that operation is a monopoly.

You would be looking at an improvement at first. Then over the years you will start to see TV suddenly becoming 'more decent', as well as radio. Tougher laws on all sorts of things that would leave many people going 'Yeah, ok. That's fine. I understand. I can deal with that.". The only problem is that 20 years down the line you will find that coffee is illegal, alcohol is big time illegal, all businesses are closed on Sundays and Tuesday nights, and only members of the church will get the good government contracts and only member heavy areas will see any urban improvement done.

Ragingbear 5 years, 9 months ago

I used to be a member of the LDS Church. I got to witness these things firsthand.

Ragingbear 5 years, 9 months ago

Santorum is a lunatic,plain and simple. For the record, I don't think Newt is a good choice either.

Ragingbear 5 years, 9 months ago

Obama is the messiah, here to deliver us from stupid. Unfortunately it infected him, thus making him stupid. It's like the Nothing in The Neverending Story, but stupid instead of nothing.

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