Deep And Shallow

by digby

I'm looking forward to hearing Mitt Romney's speech explaining why his being a Mormon shouldn't preclude him from being president since he hates all the same religions the Christian fundamentalists hate (not that anyone's menntioning it.) But somehow I don't think his speech is going to be as resonant as this one:

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."...

"For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril."

"Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

"But let me stress again that these are my views--for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me."

"Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise."

"But if the time should ever come--and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible--when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same."

"But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith--nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election."

As Frederick Clarkson wrote over at Talk To Action:

JFK ... gave a speech that was a landmark in the politics of separation of church and state. It is a fair and reasonable and inspired standard by which politicians may distinguish themselves from the views of the religious institutions to which they happen to belong.

I think John Kerry would have done well to have emulated it when he was attacked by religious rightist Catholic prelates, among others, in 2004. I think too, that the Inside the Beltway consultants who are now busy recasting bedrock Democratic principles (so well articulated by JFK in 1960) in an effort to pander to evangelicals and conservative Catholics -- ought to reconsider the way they are demolishing respect for the constitutional principle of no religious tests for public office.

No kidding. The religious right has managed to make it an unspoken test that a president must be not only a person who claims an approved religion, but that they are personally deeply religious. (And Democratic advisors are working overtime to get their candidates to join them, unfortunately.) Gone are the days when someone like Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan could simply tell religious voters he is a Quaker or a Presbyterian and have that suffice as evidence of acceptable religiosity. Now, candidates have to prostrate themselves before preachers and their flocks and explicitly testify in great detail how their religious beliefs will guide their decision making.

It's a shame. Kennedy successfully tempered a long standing anti-catholic bias held by a rather large number in this country by appealing to the fundamental American belief in a separation of church and state and by reassuring them that he would make decisions based on what his conscience tells him is in the national interest "and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates." Romney will be trying to temper an anti-Mormon bias among a sub-set of the Religious Right by assuring them (through coded conservative Christian language) that he is just as biased against other religions and non-believers as they are and will definitely bow to outside pressures or dictates --- from them.

Somehow Jack and Mitt don't strike me as trying to accomplish the same things, although I'm quite sure the press will immediately start singing "I wonder what the King is doing tonight?" and talking about how his fabulous shoulders, chin and hair are "Kennedyesque."