That was extremely, if not surprisingly, bland. Bill Bennett walked onto CNN afterwards to give his critique: "I can see this speech being given by any of the Republican candidates and most of the Democrats." Romney duped people into thinking he'd address the worries anti-Mormon religious conservatives have about his faith, and he didn't do that.
Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.
That was the worry about JFK, but it's not the worry about Mormonism: Some conservative protestant Christians consider the religion a cult and a perversion of Christianity. They, and the 40-odd percent of the country who don't consider Mormonism "Christian," could give a damn whether Romney talks to Gordon Hinckley.
Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.
Is anyone convinced by this? Raise your hand. (One problem with the Romney-as-victim-of-persecution story is that if he gets the nominee he'll either be running against a woman or a black man, with all the prejudices thereof, which makes declarations like these ring extra hollow, and even patronizing.)
What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history.
Weak, weak, weak. That basically validates the conspiracy theories I hear when I visit Baptist bible studies.
In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.
Again, Romney's just not very good at political jujitsu. He's a yellow belt. He's trying to change the topic from the particulars of his faith to a bland "we're all in this together against the ACLU and Rosie O'Donnell" message, and it's woefully obvious. Ramesh Ponnuru points this out in a Corner devoted, for the moment, to slavering over Romney's "presidential" bearing and patriotism. Romney is asking voters to retain their prejudices about faith, especially the personal faith of politicians: To demand that the people they elect have a relationship with God that they approve of.
Is Romney's slow-motion three card monte going to convince religious voters that they can trust him over Huckabee? I don't think so. I know some of those people. They're not stupid.
UPDATE: I foolishly didn't link this before: Ron Paul's response.
We live in times of great uncertainty when men of faith must stand up for American values and traditions before they are washed away in a sea of fear and relativism. I have never been one who is particularly comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena, and I find the pandering that typically occurs in the election season to be distasteful.
Our nation was founded to be a place where religion is freely practiced and differences are tolerated and respected. I come to my faith through Jesus Christ and have accepted him as my personal savior. At the same time, I have worked tirelessly to defend and restore individual rights and religious freedom for all Americans.
The recent attacks and insinuations, both direct and subtle, that Gov. Romney may be less fit to serve as president of our United States because of his faith fly in the face of everything America stands for. Gov. Romney should be judged fairly, on his record and his character, not on the church he attends."