December 8, 2007

Where we really need "don't ask, don't tell"

I've been thinking about Mitt Romney's "Mormon" speech for a couple of days and finally got around to reading it yesterday afternoon. Up until then I only knew about bits and pieces of it repeated on the blogs, the radio and television. It was worse than I imagined. Touted as the "new" JFK speech (text of JFK's speech), it was nothing of the kind.

This New York Times OpEd says it very well:

Mr. Romney tried to cloak himself in the memory of John F. Kennedy, who had to defend his Catholicism in the 1960 campaign. But Mr. Kennedy had the moral courage to do so in front of an audience of Southern Baptist leaders and to declare: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

Mr. Romney did not even come close to that in his speech, at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas, before a carefully selected crowd. And in his speech, he courted the most religiously intolerant sector of American political life by buying into the myths at the heart of the “cultural war,” so eagerly embraced by the extreme right.

Mr. Romney filled his speech with the first myth — that the nation’s founders, rather than seeking to protect all faiths, sought to imbue the United States with Christian orthodoxy. He cited the Declaration of Independence’s reference to “the creator” endowing all men with unalienable rights and the founders’ proclaiming not just their belief in God, but their belief that God’s hand guided the American revolutionaries.


The other myth permeating the debate over religion is that it is a dispute between those who believe religion has a place in public life and those who advocate, as Mr. Romney put it, “the elimination of religion from the public square.” That same nonsense is trotted out every time a court rules that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed in a government building.

We believe democracy cannot exist without separation of church and state, not that public displays of faith are anathema. We believe, as did the founding fathers, that no specific religion should be elevated above all others by the government.

The authors of the Constitution knew that requiring specific declarations of religious belief (like Mr. Romney saying he believes Jesus was the son of God) is a step toward imposing that belief on all Americans. That is why they wrote in Article VI that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

And yet, religious testing has gained strength in the last few elections.
What part of “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” is unclear? No employer in the country is allowed to ask a prospective employee about their religious faith. Why do we allow this of our candidates? This is the world's most important job interview and we are stuck on whether or not someone is "religious" enough? Why do the media and the candidates go along? Can't a candidate respectfully decline to answer the question by saying, "This is a country founded on religious freedom and our founders were wise enough to enshrine in our Constitution a law that says "no religious test shall ever be required for public office." Therefore, with all due respect, I will not answer any questions about my religious faith, nor will I cite my religious faith as a qualification for office."

As one of about 10% of the US population who has no god belief, where was I in Mitt Romney speech? He kept using the all inclusive "we" to describe a nation that
"...believe[s] that every single human being is a child of God."
No, I don't. And:
Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.
No, it isn't one or the other. It's an inalienable right! And:
You can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: We do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.
And if I don't play any "faith" instrument? Where do I fit into Mitt Romney's America?

1 comment:

Technomonk said...

I was shocked by his speech. I am an atheist, and he clearly told me I have no place in his vision of the US.

His speech turned me from ignoring him to being in bold opposition to him.