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With His Message Delivered, Romney Awaits Verdict

Mitt Romney and former President George H.W. Bush before Romney took the podium for his "Faith in America" address. (Reuters).

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Mitt Romney walked a fine line here on Thursday in the most important speech of his political career. His presidency, he said, would not be influenced by his Mormon Church, but it would surely be influenced by his religious faith and he would fight to preserve religion's role in American life.

That this is a far different country than the one which existed when John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association was evident with almost every paragraph of Romney's speech.

His most vigorous applause came not when he defended the importance of the separation of church and state -- although he did so declare -- but when he decried the growing secularization of America and what he called an apparent effort by some to establish "the religion of secularism" as the nation's state religion.

For every call for religious tolerance and adherence to the separation of church and state, Romney offered a countervailing pledge to preserve as prominent a role as possible for religion in the public arena. "I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion," he said. "But I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'"

Such is the challenge of a Republican presidential candidate in 2008, particularly one whose religion is little known to many Americans and seen suspiciously by one of the most important constituencies in the GOP coalition -- evangelical Christians.

What John F. Kennedy did in Houston in 1960, declaring that he would take no orders from the Vatican if he were president, was only part of Romney's challenge. Romney was willing to make a similar pledge, but he could not stop with that. At a time when many conservatives believe religion is being squeezed out of public life, he sought to reassure them that his decisions would be infused with religious values common to all believers.

The setting for the speech could not have been more presidential. Romney was introduced by a former president against a backdrop of American flags at a presidential library. Everything spoke to the seriousness of the subject matter and the political stakes of the moment -- and to the fact that Romney had found a hospitable venue in which to discuss a delicate topic.

The first applause came when former first lady Barbara Bush entered the auditorium with Ann Romney, who was wearing a red dress and, perhaps in deference to the former first lady, a string of pearls.

The applause was even warmer when, minutes later, Romney entered, accompanied by George H.W. Bush, who seemed to be enjoying the limelight as much as Romney seemed somewhat daunted about the task ahead.

When Kennedy spoke to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960, he faced an audience of Baptist ministers believed to be skeptical about the prospect of the nation's first Roman Catholic president.

Romney's audience included many supporters and a number of evangelical leaders, all of whom seemed to respond positively to the message Romney delivered. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention declared it "magnificent" when he spoke with CNN afterwards.

The audience reaction was most enthusiastic when Romney spoke about the importance of religion in the public square and reached a crescendo when he recalled the Founding Fathers meeting during the First Continental Congress and seeming too divided by competing religions to pray together for guidance.

He recalled that it was Samuel Adams, who called for a prayer from anyone who was a patriot. "And so together they prayed," Romney said, "and together they fought and together, by the grace of God, they founded this great nation." It did not appear to be an intended applause line but it brought the audience to its feet with a standing ovation -- for Romney and for the sentiment he had expressed.

Romney seemed pleased after the speech as he was joined by his family and spoke to many in the audience. His advisers argued that he had taken a big subject (and an obvious political problem) and dealt with both in a ways that spoke broadly to the country.

In that sense, the Romney team saw the speech as mission accomplished and they now await the verdict. Whether he has overcome the doubters or the skeptics will not be clear until voters in Iowa and South Carolina and other states begin to weigh in next month.

No matter what that verdict, the question of how much religion in public life -- how much is enough and how much is too much -- will continue to reverberate through the 2008 campaign.

--Dan Balz

By Washington Post editors  |  December 6, 2007; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Dan Balz's Take  
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Next: A Candidate's Dilemma: Oprah vs. the Senate


Sorry, I kind of choked on the last paragraph.

It should read: This may seem out of place but let me conclude by referring to an episode of South Park which makes fun of the history of the Mormon Church but concludes that Mormons are good people.

They are just as eligible to serve in high office as members who follow any religion or those who follow no religion.

I will try to edit better in the future.

Posted by: danielhancock | December 7, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Romney would be the first to admit that he is no JFK. The JFK speech was given in a different time and it was directed towards a more basic form of religious intolerance than what Romney faces.

The intolerance against JFK's Catholicism was intolerance based on ignorance. What Romney faces is more insidious. He faces religious intolerance by people who know better and want to use religious discrimination against him for political purposes.

If you don't like Romney's views on issues by all means don't vote for him. But don't base your vote on his religion.

When George Romney and Morris Udall ran for president, their Mormon faith was not an issue. The fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is a Mormon is not an issue either. The fact that Romney even has to make a speech on this issue shows that we are actually moving backwards as far as religious tolerance is concerned.

This may seem out of place but let me cocluded by referring to an episode of South Park which makes fun of the history of the Mormon Church but concludes that Mormons are good people. They are just as eligible to serve in high office as members of any religion or those whole follow no religion.

Posted by: danielhancock | December 7, 2007 10:54 AM | Report abuse

"I am an Epicopalian, and Mormonism is Not A Christian Religion. the have a Separate "Testament" translated by Joseph Smith from silver tablets never found. They do not allow Christians Into Their "Temple". Have you heard og Brigham Young's Massacre of 3,000 Christians at Mountain Meadows on Septermber 11, 1857?"

A truly enlightened post...with the two simplest facts wrong. First, the tables were gold, not silver, and then you had to correct yourself in your next post because you must have actually opened a book and found out the death toll was 140...not 3000.

I'm LDS and there is no excuse for Mountain Meadows. It was my very direct ancestors that were the perpetrators of that heinous act. My great, great, great grandfather even shot my great, great grandfather (his son) in the head that day because the son wouldn't kill innocent people. He survived the shot (whew for me). Mountain Meadows is family history for me and I make no excuses for those men, although I am quite proud of my great, great grandfather. His story is only recorded in one book that I know of.

How does that affect my faith? Well, my faith is not in my fellow church members, it is in my God. People's heinous acts does not affect the validity of my religion, although it certainly doesn't help anything. There's plenty of us Mormons besides those Morons at Mountain Meadows that have set a much better example for the last 150 years...please take a wider view of our people than that...thanks.

Posted by: elbeau | December 7, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Here's something interesting. You can tell the posts from Mormons. They confuse facts with opinions.

Notice how they definitively say "He and the present Apostles trace their authority to Jesus Christ in an unbroken chain of ordinations through Joseph Smith." Yes I know that is what you preach (that's faith,I can't touch faith), but we are debating the facts of your doctrines, i.e. things we can prove are false or true like... did the LDS church make racist statements, did they make prophecies that never came true, did they make claims that have been disapproved by modern day science, did Joseph Smith get arrested for scamming people - These are ALL TRUE!! And we can prove it. Just look it up.

I like my Mormon friends; I work with them everyday, but that doesn't mean an enlightened society shouldn't correct false statements and deceptions.

Posted by: info | December 6, 2007 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Freeedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Since the so-called "Christian" right-wing rethuglicans have tried to shove "their" religion down everyone's throats, I think it is entirely appropriate that the rest of us can be critical of them and their religion. You can't have it both ways. You can't emphasize religious beliefs all the time but then act so dismayed when your religious beliefs are called into question. By the way, I have a crooked mormon who lives next door to me. If this is an example of how mormons conduct themselves, then I want no part of it.

Posted by: 57newfie | December 6, 2007 8:24 PM | Report abuse

SPECIALSAUCE30-RELAX! Some of the mannerisms and *Texting* styles are unique to no more than a couple of Daily Kaos type LOSERS, who have MULTIPLE User names and somehow seem to live to attack that which they cannot understand!

From the trend of their Posts, they have a group of fellow Parrots who seem to get some sort of satisfaction bad mouthing conservatives all day while Rec'ing each other!

Picture a group of Leftist Bush Bashers all sitting on a bed with Wi-Fi going "Oh Great Man! Ha-Ha! I'll rec you for that if you'll Rec me back!" "Oh, wow! That was too cool Man! I'll Rec you twice!!!"

Sad, but TRUE!

Posted by: rat-the | December 6, 2007 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Listen, I find it extremely unfortunate that the thing that Mitt Romney was wrong about in his speech was that the people who say his religion will sink his campaign underestimate the American people. Judging from the blatant ignorance, vile aggression, and misinformed comments on this blog alone, it's apparent that many of you Americans are given way too much credit. Regardless of what the anti-Mormon sites say, there's no ground to how his religion will affect his ability to act as president. You're missing the boat on what you're emphasizing - it's not about the "secretive" or "dirty" elements of the Mormon church that should be the topic of conversation, but the issues (like every other candidate). I know Mormons - they're fantastic people and I'd support one in the White House as long as I agree with his issues REGARDLESS if I agree with his beliefs.

Posted by: specialsauce30 | December 6, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

This board seems to have a rush to judgement from those who have a harsh view of all Mormons.

I am a jewish american and have never met a Mormon I did not like.

This was a fantastic speech - if you don't want to vote for a candidate because he believes in the constitution - well that is your Taliban right.

For me it is Romney - most experienced and capable - I really could care less about his Mormon faith.

Posted by: weinbob | December 6, 2007 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I am an Episcopalian, so I know. They have a Separate "Testament" translated by Joseph Smith from silver tablets never found. They do not allow Christians Into Their "Temples". Have you heard of Brigham Young's ordered Massacre of 40 men, 30 women, and 70 children at Mountain Meadows on Septermber 11, 1857?
Read the book by Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets.

Posted by: rmcnicoll | December 6, 2007 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I am an Epicopalian, and Mormonism is Not A Christian Religion. the have a Separate "Testament" translated by Joseph Smith from silver tablets never found. They do not allow Christians Into Their "Temple". Have you heard og Brigham Young's Massacre of 3,000 Christians at Mountain Meadows on Septermber 11, 1857?
Read the book by Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets.

Posted by: rmcnicoll | December 6, 2007 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Church/State separation is exactly what guarantees everyone's religious liberty!

If you are against absolute separation of church and state, then by definition you oppose complete religious liberty.

If you oppose religious liberty, then you don't respect religion. Simple as that.

It's so damn simple that it's hard to believe a smart guy like Mitt doesn't get it.

So he's either missed the main point of our Bill of Rights entirely or he really doesn't respect anyone's religious liberty (including his own) or both (*ding*).

Either option disqualifies him immediately, in my book.

Posted by: Freestinker | December 6, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

"Looks to me as if most "Christians" are in a state of "apostasy""

Maybe you consider the midevil times the golden days of Christianity. If you keep reading you will find very high praise for Martin Luther and the many protestant reformists, including the founders of most of the large sects of today, who we believe brought Christianity in large measure back to the teachings of the Savior.

Most people half-quote us on our feelings about protestantism, but it's not all bad. Sure, we think we're right...just like they think they're right...but until protestantism brought the Bible to the masses starting with Martin Luther in the 16th century, people had no access to the teachings of our Savior...aka "apostacy"...which gradually got better through protestantism and catholic reforms, leading to the restoration we believe in through Joseph Smith.

Posted by: elbeau | December 6, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Hey koolaid, consider this: How weird something is may depend on how long it has been around and how familiar we are with whatever it is...

If you ask me, there are a lot of "weird" things in just about every religion. :^)

Posted by: dallas.a.clement | December 6, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Is *this* Christianity?

"A living prophet--the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--is the authorized successor to Joseph Smith. He and the present Apostles? trace their authority to Jesus Christ in an unbroken chain of ordinations through Joseph Smith."

Posted by: koolaid37064 | December 6, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

koolaid37064: got us there. You found our own description of the contents of the Book of Mormon, which is in the book itself, which we give freely to anyone who wants one.

Posted by: elbeau | December 6, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Looks to me as if most "Christians" are in a state of "apostasy" as far as the LDS is concerned:

"Although many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, they did not have the fulness of truth or the priesthood authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances? at that time. They had inherited a state of apostasy?, as each generation was influenced by what the previous one passed on, including changes in the doctrines and in ordinances, such as baptism."

Posted by: koolaid37064 | December 6, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Here's an excerpt from the home page. How's *this* for weird?

The Book of Mormon is a sacred record of peoples in ancient America, and was engraved upon sheets of metal. Four kinds of metal record plates are spoken of in the book itself:
1. The Plates of Nephi, which were of two kinds: the Small Plates and the Large Plates. The former were more particularly devoted to the spiritual matters and the ministry and teachings of the prophets, while the latter were occupied mostly by a secular history of the peoples concerned (1 Nephi 9: 2-4). From the time of Mosiah, however, the large plates also included items of major spiritual importance.
2. The Plates of Mormon, which consist of an abridgment by Mormon from the Large Plates of Nephi, with many commentaries. These plates also contained a continuation of the history by Mormon and additions by his son Moroni.
3. The Plates of Ether, which present a history of the Jaredites. This record was abridged by Moroni, who inserted comments of his own and incorporated the record with the general history under the title "Book of Ether."
4. The Plates of Brass brought by the people of Lehi from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. These contained "the five books of Moses, . . . And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, . . . down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; And also the prophecies of the holy prophets" (1 Nephi 5: 11-13). Many quotations from these plates, citing Isaiah and other biblical and nonbiblical prophets, appear in the Book of Mormon.

Posted by: koolaid37064 | December 6, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

"if Mitt Romney can act independently from the LDS Church"?

"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." - Mitt Romney today

But, of course, you've already decided we can't be trusted. It's a good thing that people who actually know us generally agree otherwise.

Posted by: elbeau | December 6, 2007 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"When people know us they're not scared of us politically."

Really, what did you and your Mormon church do to try and defeat the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)? Guess you need to learn a little more about the under-handed dealings our your church. The LDS church got caught red handed trying to "get the vote out" let's just say. Guess they missed the "no politics from the pulpit" lesson in civics.

Posted by: info | December 6, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

There's an op ed essay called the "Mormon Wildcard" on that discusses if Mitt Romney can act independently from the LDS Church for those interested.

Posted by: info | December 6, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Info, It doesn't take much to dig up all sorts of information on Mormons with a search engine. Unfortunately there is more mis-information disseminated by mormon-haters with an axe to grind than there is real information from the LDS church itself. My suggestion for anyone curious about Romney's beliefs: Compare both sides of the story. The official LDS church web-site is and also

Admittedly there are some very peculiar doctrines taught by the LDS church. And yes, there have been some pretty embarrassing things said by some of its leaders throughout the church's history.

But let me ask you: Is there any Christian church out there that is free of any dirty laundry? A lot of the LDS church's critics hone in on the whole rascism thing by pointing out that blacks could not hold the priesthood until the late 1970's. But in no way were blacks ever denied church membership. A lot of the reasoning behind that sort of thinking can be traced to biblical origins. Is that wrong? Only God can answer that.

Is there any Christian church that can possibly claim that they never denied a black person to worship alongside whites during the 1800's and even into the 1900's?

Hopefully our country has moved well beyond that era of history.

While Romney's religion may be peculiar it has some of the best things religion can offer: 1) faith in and love of God, 2) love of neighbors, 3) strengthening of the family.

Posted by: dallas.a.clement | December 6, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

"Mitt Romney is fortunate that few non-Mormon Americans know anything about his religion"


That's the funniest one I've heard all day!!!

I served an LDS mission in Mississippi and Louisiana and I can tell you from experience that most evangelicals definitely know your version of our doctrine. The problem is that they don't actually know any Mormons. 1997 the Baptist Convention even sent tens of thousands of "cult kits" to its member churches to educate them on their view of our doctrine. Evangelicals have movie-nights completely devoted to bashing us. Our religion is taught in their schools in the same chapter as devil worshiping.

People need to actually know a couple of Mormons. Even if you exclude Utah, the people out west are used to having a few Mormon neighbors and take it in stride with other social groups. They're not afraid of a Mormon president in the same way as the south or midwest where relatively few people know us.

When people know us they're not scared of us politically.

Posted by: elbeau | December 6, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Mitt Romney is fortunate that few non-Mormon Americans know anything about his religion and this speech did little to correct that.

Google "ExposeRomney" or "Eternal Progression" or "Brigham Young comments on blacks" or "The Mormon Wildcard" to find out what he's hoping slips past you.

Most religions require faith and I'm not saying that Romney wouldn't make a good manager, but he's clearly been deceptive to the point that even the political pundits know he's like about specifics.

Do you honestly thing the Evangelicals would vote for him if they understood the Mormon concept of "Eternal Progression"? Would people of color vote for him if they knew his religion associated dark skin with sin and punishment? Would secularists vote for him if they knew a famous Mormon sayings was "When the prophet speaks, the thinking [i.e. your thinking]is done."

Before you say I'm bigoted, why don't you look up what the Mormon religion says in its scriptures about other religions. We'll I'll give you a starting point. In the Mormon scriptures which Mormons are taught to be the WORD OF GOD, it states that "All other religions are an abomination in God's eyes." Now how's that for tolerance.

If you think his speech told you he's an independent thinker, well think again.

Posted by: info | December 6, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Romney's speech. YAWN. And totally unnnecessary. It's been 40 years since JFK. He (JFK) said it all, correctly. Unfortunately, "Flipper" turned an important speech into a rah-rah speech for the jihadist wing of the GOP. ALSO: To use Advent (Christmas) is really really poor timing to give such a divisive talk. LASTLY: How does he explain flipping from a liberal to a conservative? Did he have a conversion experience? Curiously, he didn't mention his "evolution". He did mention he "loved Jesus" - just like "other" Christians. It's a sad speech. And a sad commentary. Mitt played Christian identity politics - instead of using his "moment" to talk to the "Whole" country, not just the Conservative Christian part of it.

Posted by: housing53 | December 6, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I can see how the non-religious folks could take offense at the line "freedom requires religion", but honestly if you consider countries like the Soviet Union, China, North Korea etc, that have eliminated religion over much of the past century, are they better off for it? Equally, any country that declares a state religion and does not protect the inalienable rights of its citizens to practice the religion of their choice is equally destructive.

I think we have a lot to be grateful for in this country and we should continue to protect the rights of all citizens to be religious or non-religious according to their desires.

To eliminate all notion of religion from our country's heritage is as wrong as enforcing a state religion.

Posted by: dallas.a.clement | December 6, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"It did not appear to be an intended applause line but it brought the audience to its feet with a standing ovation -- for Romney and for the sentiment he had expressed."

Could someone help Dan up and give him a towel, please. This is a spectacle.

Posted by: zukermand | December 6, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Over the last couple of days I had read President Kennedy's speech and was very impressed when reading it. I didn't think that Governer Romney would be able to do quite that good but I was sure that it would still be great. However, while I was listening to him give the speech today I was shocked and realized that not only was his speech great, but it was better than John F. Kennedy's. Superb.

Posted by: adamrockworld | December 6, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm Mormon and generally liked Romney's speech...and I believe God did give us this freedom...but to say "freedom requires religion" is very alienating to many Americans and should not have been in his speech. It panders to the "religious right" at the expense of many others.

Posted by: elbeau | December 6, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Balz, will you or one of your colleagues kindly ask Mr. Romney why he thinks those of us who are not superstitious lack the capability to understand freedom? Or if he thinks our soldiers who do not hold to a religious faith should resign from the military? After all, how can one defend something they do not understand?

Posted by: B2O2 | December 6, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmm, Let's see...

Barbara Bush is friends with Chuck Norris, who is friends with Huckabee...

George Senior seems to like Mitt from the appearances in the Photo...


Fact, MOST true Religions SHARE the Belief of the One True God of Abraham! THAT, is the God we acknowledge! No Problemo with that! The US Government acknowledges GOD, but does NOT promote any one given Church that worships the same(Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Anglican, Islamic, or Hindu).
Again, No Problemo!
For the truly lost: Taoism, Confuscism, and Buddhism, are PHILOSOPHIES!

So, what do we do now?

How about calling Mike Huckabee "Number 2", getting a Military Guy, A Military Trained Doctor, a Labor Law Advocate, and a former Senator, behind them, but On the BUS!,

Throw Ruthie Giuliani UNDER IT, and Drive it to VICTORY!

Cue the Tabernacle Choir!


Road music!


Posted by: rat-the | December 6, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Romney's declaration that freedom requires religion is a blatant affront to the First Amendment and I would never vote for someone who could make such a bold and theocratic statement.

Posted by: thecrisis | December 6, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

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