Sunday, December 09, 2007

Romney and Religious Freedom.

I must admit that I have been dismissive of Romney since he abandoned the moderate positions he held as govenor of Massachussetts on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. I've also read his article in Foreign Affairs (July/August 2007) which didn't impress me very much. So I admittedly watched his speech at the George Bush Presidential Library, available here, with some negative bias...

As to the speech itself, I thought Romney had some good points, particularly these three: 1) his emphasis on the need to separate of the authority of church and the authority of the state; 2) his statement that the 'conviction of the inherent and inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced'; and 3) that the union of church and state in Europe has not been a happy experience for either the church or state (although I could have done without his cheap dig at Europe, i.e. that the Cathedrals of Europe are "so inspired ... so grand ... so empty").

Romney's rhetoric was clearly aimed at appealing to politically conservative christians, which did put me off. For example, when Romney spoke of those who "seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God," who Romney said "are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong" I also took issue at Romney's assertion that freedom requires religion, and that the US Constitution rests on a 'foundations of faith' and that judges should respect that foundation.

I do not believe that a secularist interpretation of the Constitution, as expressed in an elimination of religious symbols from government and a strict prohibition of government support of religion, poses a threat to religious liberty. Neither do I accept that the US Constitution was constructed on faith. As I read the US Consitution I am struck by how the Founding Fathers were inspired by a number of sources, movements and ideas, including inter alia: the English Consitution (including the English Bill of Rights of 1688); he English Common Law; American Protestantism; and the Enlightenment's emphasis on reason as the proper source of truth, faith and morals.

Finally, Romney's statement that "America's resolve in the defence of liberty has been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting...," was a repetition of the sentiment Romney expressed in his Foreign Affairs article, and one that seems to reveal a messianic view of America.

That said, I was generally pleased that a Republican would make such a speech.


At 10 December, 2007 10:30, Anonymous Kenneth Birch said...

I agree with you that the ieas Constitution has many other (and more important) sources than Christianity. It is definitely more a document of the Englightenment than of 20th century Christianity. It is noticable, for instance, that Romney quotes Adams frequently, but never Jefferson.

Unfortunately, the moral majority has been somewhat successful in defining how faith should influence politics. Their rhetorics puts many people (myself amongst them) off and makes it easier for those who oppose religion altogehter. It seems Romney unwittingly is influenced more by their 'theology' than by that of the founding fathers.

At 10 December, 2007 20:41, Anonymous Charles said...


I appreciate your take on the speech. I have to confess I giggled a smidgen after the cathedral gig, but I can see where that could easily offend. What's church attendance like in England or Denmark?

I agree, Romney was trying to ease concerns that some Evangelicals have of him, due to his Mormon faith. I wish that was not necessary, but it seems Evangelicals are becoming more and more intolerant... Go figure.

I do have to disagree on your assertions concerning secularism, and the comments about freedom and religion. I think two examples of freedom and religion not working well without the other would be most Muslim states (Saudi Arabia) for example. Very little freedom there with religious totalitarianism. These countries will never become great nations. On the flip side, you have Russia (USSR). They all but banned organized Religion - yet again no freedom.

I think in the long run, countries like China will fail because Freedom and Religion go hand in hand, just like Romney asserted. Countries like Iran will fail due to Religious extremism leading to no freedom.

Lastly, I think this country will fail if secularism takes root. The whole concept of secularism is not founded in tolerance. It always requires something to be taken from religion, and ultimately freedom. Thus, in America, you have 1 or 2 atheists dictating Christmas Tree displays or Menorahs. We have secularists being offended by anything remotely referring to religion.

Ultimately, that is just as bad as evangelicals dissing Romney for being Mormon, and is as intolerant as some Muslims are of Christians (vice versa). Secularism is a wide road paved straight to hell, in my opinion. Yet, in a free society, that road should at least have exits to the straight and narrow, as well as being allowed to exist.

Does any of this make sense?


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