For months, political watchers have been anxiously wondering weather Mitt Romney would give a Kennedy-style speech on his faith. In case you are unfamiliar with the JFK reference, in 1960, John Kennedy was running for President, but his Catholic faith raised more than a few questions. Many were afraid that Kennedy would be more likely to follow the dictates of the Pope rather than the Constitution, and that he might act in the best interests of his faith rather than the nation. These questions might sound silly now, but back then, they were very real, and, in an attempt to answer the “religious question” once and for all, he gave a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in which he said the following:
“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, if I should be elected, 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 in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure 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 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 likewise.”
Those words became some of the most memorable to come from Kennedy, and they helped to convince many not only that JFK was an acceptable choice, but also to pick their candidate based on political, rather than theological, views.
Now 48 years later, another Presidential candidate, this time a Republican, finds himself in a similar situation to Kennedy. As a Mormon, Romney faces perhaps even more suspicion than Kennedy, because, unlike Catholicism, Mormonism is not commonly accepted as a Christian faith. Now, with Romney starting to gain support, many have asked weather Romney would look to the past and give a grand, nationally-televised speech on his faith. The short answer, I now believe, is no, he will not dedicate a major speech to his religion. However, I do think he came extremely close today when he appeared on “Face the Nation”. Here is what he said:
“No president could possibly take orders or even input from religious leaders telling him what to do. My church wouldn’t endeavor to tell me what to do on an issue, and I wouldn’t listen to them on an issue that related to our nation.”
A quick two-sentence statement may not seem like anything that could have a profound impact on the race, or on Romney’s support among Evangelical Christians, but Bob Schieffer, who was the one interviewing Romney, thinks otherwise:
“I found his answers interesting. He outlined how he saw the relationship of his religion to the duties of the presidency in much the way that John Kennedy explained his faith in that 1960 speech after people questioned his Catholicism.
Romney didn’t go as far as Kennedy but I came away feeling I knew more about who he was and that helps to make a political, not a religious judgment.
Had he said his religion was none of my business, I would have taken that as a legitimate answer. In America, what we choose to tell others about our faith is nobody’s business but our own.
Kennedy said he hoped no one would vote for or against him because he was Catholic. Romney said the same.
I think they got that part exactly right.”
I think that is about as much as we will hear from Romeny on his faith – and I think thats about as much as we should hear.