…it would be so much healthier if Mitt Romney’s fate were decided on the basis of his views (such as his refusal to call waterboarding torture) or his slippery public record (reversing field on virtually every social issue from abortion to gay rights). But there will be scant reason to cheer if Romney loses the presidential nomination because he was born Mormon instead of, say, Catholic or Jewish.
Mr. Romney is scheduled to give a speech today in Texas that is supposed to be “about the role of religion, faith, in America and in a free society”. Some are calling it his “JFK speech,” comparing it to the talk Senator Kennedy gave in front of Baptist ministers in September 1960, but as Andrew O’Hehir points out, there is a difference between what JFK had to do — explain that he would not be doing the Vatican’s bidding. Kennedy made it clear that he was able to separate his faith from his political life. Mr. Romney must convince the Christian fundamentalists that being a Mormon — a denomination many of them don’t see as Christian — does not disqualify him as a candidate for the presidency.
Forty years ago Mitt’s father George Romney ran for the Republican nomination. His faith was barely a footnote; he lost because of his “brainwashing” comment about Vietnam. It’s ironic that we have progressed to the point that religious bigotry — from people who claim at the drop of a hat to be victims of it — would make it an issue in the campaign in 2008.