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Romney Plans Speech on His Mormon Faith

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) has decided to give a speech directly addressing his Mormon faith, much as then-candidate John F. Kennedy did about his Catholic faith before the 1960 election.

The Romney campaign announced Sunday that he will speak about his religious beliefs Thursday at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Tex. Romney's speech is titled "Faith in America," spokesman Kevin Madden said in a statement.

Romney has said for months that he sees no need to make a big deal out of his religion, despite surveys which suggest that for some voters, especially in the South, his Mormon faith makes them less likely to vote for him. A Washington Post poll found earlier this year that his religion was regarded by voters as a bigger stumbling block than Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's race or New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's gender.

"This speech is an opportunity for Governor Romney to share his views on religious liberty, the grand tradition religious tolerance has played in the progress of our nation and how the governor's own faith would inform his Presidency if he were elected," Madden said. "Governor Romney understands that faith is an important issue to many Americans, and he personally feels this moment is the right moment for him to share his views with the nation."

Romney decided to give the speech "sometime last week," Madden said, adding that the venue should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Romney's campaign by the former president, who has remained neutral in the Republican nomination.

The statement from the campaign did not specify the nature of the speech, or how specific Romney might be in addressing questions about his own beliefs and practices. During Wednesday's GOP debate in St. Petersburg, Fla., Romney was widely panned for his answer to a question about whether he believes every word of the Bible. He paused and hesitated for several seconds, leading some to suggest that he was calculating the political risks of different answers. The speech could be an attempt to quiet such talk.

In addition, Romney is facing a serious challenge in Iowa, the first state to cast votes. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, has surged past Romney to lead state polls, and he has won the support of many evangelical leaders and Christian conservatives, backing that carries substantial weight in the Republican nominating process. A speech by Romney could be an effort to halt Huckabee's progress.

As the Democratic nominee in 1960, Kennedy traveled to Houston to meet the Greater Houston Ministerial Association and, in particular, address concerns that his religious duty to obey the Vatican trumped his political duty to obey the Constitution.

Kennedy said, "If my church attempted to influence me in a way which was improper or which affected adversely my responsibilities as a public servant, sworn to uphold the Constitution, then I would reply to them that ... it would be an unfortunate breach, an interference with the American political system."

The meeting is regarded in political history as a turning point that triggered a significant national decline in bias against Catholic candidates.

-- Michael D. Shear

By Post Editor  |  December 2, 2007; 5:17 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Mitt Romney  
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