News and Commentary on Romney’s Speech

As of this writing, Google News lists 769 newspaper reports about Mitt Romney’s speech yesterday, and 8,232 stories since yesterday containing the word “Mormon”. Please share your finds with the rest of us.

Romney defends faith in speech he shouldn’t have to give, Editors, USA Today

One Nation Under Mitt, Kathleen Parker, Southern Illinoisian

Boldness, Watered Down, E. J. Dionne, Washington Post

Mitt Romney Raised the Bar, Rush Limbaugh,

What Iowans Should Know About Mormons, Naomi Schaefer Riley, Wall Street Journal

Latter-day Speaker, Maggie Gallager et al, National Review

Faith vs. the Faithless, David Brooks, New York Times

Answering Critics — and Kennedy, Michael Gerson, Washington Post

Romney’s Achievement, Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard

I’m a Mormon: Take it or leave it, Romney says, Jessica Van Sack, Boston Herald

Mitt Romney’s Case for Pastor in Chief, Domke and Coe, Seattle Intelligencer

VIDEO: Fred Barnes, Mora Liasson and Charles Krauthamer

VIDEO: Sean Hannity with Evangelical Leaders

79 comments for “News and Commentary on Romney’s Speech

  1. A great point from David Brooks, in an otherwise positive review:
    “When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other’s passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn’t start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people’s minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

    The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.

    The second casualty of the faith war is theology itself. In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.

    In Romney’s account, faith ends up as wishy-washy as the most New Age-y secularism. In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things. Really? Then why not choose the one with the prettiest buildings?”

    This point is important, beacuse in the “speech Romney shouldn’t have to give” he’s making a strong plea for inclusion at the same time he’s failing to find any place for the non-religious (I think that’s possible to do, even if we do agree that freedom needs religion and religion needs freedom). It’s also important because his “I’m Mormon take it or leave it” message is tempered by the quite universalist strain in the speech, which, Brooks rightly points out, would sound quite strange to most believers throughout most of American history. Brooks has brought out, better than the other commentators, the paradoxes of Romney’s speech. This quite fine speech about religion in America throughout history is also in some sense a tract in the present-day culture war, with all the complications that that involves. If this speech is long remembered, it will be remembered for that, too.

  2. Jeremiah, I also noticed Brooks’ comments and agree that he has an important point. It may serve Mitt’s strategic purposes, especially in the context of the Republican primaries, to re-emphasize a believer/non-believer dichotomy. But it is both divisive and misleading. Brooks’ reference to Madison’s “noisy public square” also brings to mind Joseph’s own description of the confusing conditions that he faced in Palmyra before the First Vision. It would have been much more effective, fair and accurate for Romney to acknowledge *that* is the reality we are dealing with rather than the simplistic and insulting “us vs. them,” believer v. non-believer paradigm.

  3. Jeremiah and BSK, Brook’s response is reasonable but inane. It’s unfair to complain that a speech entitled “Faith in America” discusses faith only, just as it would be inane to complain that a documentary titled “Skiing in America” didn’t address surfing or people who don’t ski. His only “divisive” comments would be his unfavorable views of groups trying to remove religion from the public square, but because those issues have zero-sum outcomes (we either have public Christmas displays or we don’t, we either print the national motto on our money or we don’t), merely expressing which of those two outcomes he supports is, necessarily, “divisive.” Reasonable but inane.

  4. For me, Dionne’s piece in the Washington Post (listed above) really nailed what I perceived as both the strengths and weaknesses of Romney’s speech. Then again, I am predisposed to agree with his center-left commentary. The Post has a number of other perspectives, specifically see the “On Faith” feature. I also thought this small item was very interesting and echoed some of the conversation on this blog (it’s the second heading, may have to click to page 2).

  5. I love one of the comments on the Daytona Beach article:

    Classic. A Jewish-owned newspaper asks a professor from a Baptist-ran university about Mormonism.

  6. This is the point that aggravates me the most and demonstrates the unspoken bias and prejudice that permeates much of the media coverage of Mormons. Though there are notable exceptions, Mormons are not allowed to speak for themselves in the media. The media don’t talk to Mormons about our beliefs perhaps because they don’t trust us to be honest about them, or they don’t trust their audience to trust us about them, or they simply don’t think we can be sufficiently critical about them.Whatever the reason, there is a lack of trust demonstrated implicitly when the media muzzles Mormons. On the other hand, look at what the television stations did to Mitt’s speech: Go ask a Baptist. Give them the voice and the right to make the judgment for others.

    So the logic of the media dialog about Mormons often goes like this: I am a Baptist and we are Christian, Mormons don’t believe what we do, so they aren’t Christians. If a Mormon is asked: We believe in Christ as Savior of all, anyone who believes that is Christian, so we are Christian like they are. But how often do Latter-day Saints actually get to speak for themselves? The assumption that Christianity must look as the mainliners believe it determines the outcome of the discussion. I would argue that even if one means by “Christianity” “what the Christians have traditionally believed” about the Trinity, about the divinity of Jesus, about the nature of salvation and works, Mormons are well within the traditional mainstream. However, it takes more than a 20 second sound bite to engage the discussion and given our media dictated format of dialog, that discussion never happens — at least not for public consumption. The sound bite culture trivializes and dictates the shallowness of the engagement. The prejudicial lack of trust of allowing Mormons to speak for themselves is the subtext that controls the discussion without discussing it.

  7. “Yesterday, I called around to many of America’s serious religious thinkers — including moderates like Richard Bushman of Columbia…”
    To me, this is most remarkable thing in the Brooks piece.

  8. “It’s unfair to complain that a speech entitled “Faith in America” discusses faith only, just as it would be inane to complain that a documentary titled “Skiing in America” didn’t address surfing or people who don’t ski.”

    I don’t think that this is a very good analogy. He’s not giving a narrowly focused historical lecture on faith in America, it’s a political speech in a campaign. But even if it were a lecture, quotes like the one from John Adams (“Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.”), and perhaps even the one about freedom needing religion, clearly leads to the question of the place of the non-believers or at least non-religious in the polity. I don’t think that Romney was giving his blessing to the crasser elements of cultural religious conservatism, but the complete absence of any mention of the place of the non-religious in the polity was pretty conspicuous. He’s looking for votes in the GOP primary–I don’t expect him to be as blunt as George Will was when he said that the “persecution complex [of some Christians] is unbecoming because it is unrealistic”, but one could expect him, especially in this context, to say the kind of thing George W. Bush has said (which he doesn’t get enough credit for), like “If you choose not to worship, you’re equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship.” That would be completely sensible and completely appropriate, and possibly compatible with most if not all of the principles Romney invoked. So overall it was quite a good speech but I think that Brooks raises an insightful, good point there about what Romney *didn’t* say.

  9. Matt, #5, we may be talking past one another to some extent. My point is that it is a false dichotomy to divide the world into believers vs. unbelievers. When, to take one example, Christopher Hitchens, author of “God Is Not Great,” argues emphatically that religion has had a net negative effect on the welfare of the world and that atheism is the accurate and correct, he is simply adding his voice to the cacophony. His atheism is simply another type of faith–a believe, fervently held, that no God exists. And he expends tremendous energy exercising that faith and proselytizing others to join it. The opposite of faith is not atheism. It may be fear. It may be apathy.

    In short, believers vs. non-believers is a falacious worldview. Mitt Romney would do well to avoid the trap. To the extent he, and more broadly, the Republican party, continues down that road, that vision will be exposed as misguided and they will both lose support.

  10. Several (predictably negative) responses on Slate, including from Christopher Hitchens. I continue to be dismayed at how blithely and egregiously the speech is mis-glossed (dys-interpreted?). A blogger on Slate’s (embarrassingly awful) XX Factor blog, for example, took the message as “Don’t stress; I’d jettison my closely held religious beliefs with no more of a backward glance than I gave my previous closely held beliefs on abortion and gay marriage.” What?

  11. Jeremiah, I agree Romney could have acknowledged that people without faith can be patriots without harming his message, but I see no reason to complain that he didn’t offer a comprehensive list of all known belief systems. His omission of RLDS, JWs, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Scientologists, Wiccans, Marxists and atheists should not be read as being logically necessary exclusions.

    bsk, I agree that Hitchens is a believer with faith in his conception of reality and truth, but if we accept that definition I don’t see why atheists would feel left out. Theirs is just one of the countless faiths Romney didn’t mention by name.

  12. While the NY Times editorial board faulted some details of the speech itself, their dislike seems far more that the speech was demanded than with what was said.

  13. “I see no reason to complain that he didn’t offer a comprehensive list of all known belief systems. His omission of RLDS, JWs, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Scientologists, Wiccans, Marxists and atheists should not be read as being logically necessary exclusions”

    Neither I nor Brooks complained about that. Indeed, category of religion (as in: the constitition was made for a religious people) includes by definition all religious belief systems, and excludes non-religious belief systems or points of view distinguished by their disbelief in or rejection of religion. So yes, atheism, lack of religiosity, agnosticism, and Marxism are logically necessary exclusions from the category of religion. Romney didn’t *explicitly* exclude the non-religious, but he did leave the question of their place unanswered. Do you really think that the role of non-religious believers, agnostics, and atheists in the American polity is somehow off-topic in a discussion of the issues Romney was addressing, and in a speech that includes claims like the ones Romney was making?

    Are we talking about the same speech? It seems you’re watering down the actual significance of what Romney said–indeed, advancing a very bizarre interpretation of what he said–if you’re arguing that his designation of “religion” included all possible belief systems but only failed to list them all. When Romney argued (quite plausibly, I think), that freedom needs religion, he didn’t mean freedom requires that people believe in something, anything at all, even if that belief includes that God doesn’t exist. He was referring to *religious* belief. I don’t think that makes him a bigot, or intolerant, but it does leave certain questions–questions that are central to the issue he’s addressing–tantalizingly (or perhaps very significantly) unanswered.

    Perhaps Dec. 6, 2007 will be remembered as the day that Mormons finally crossed the threshold and were able to become full participants in the political system of United States. Or perhaps it be marked as the day they became accepted as full, reliable partners in the Judeo-Christian religious struggle against secularism and atheism. Perhaps Romney was trying to accomplish both. That’s at least one way in which David Brooks’ point is signficant.

  14. Actually, I agree with the NY Times editorial board.

    Mr. Romney was not there to defend freedom of religion, or to champion the indisputable notion that belief in God and religious observance are longstanding parts of American life. He was trying to persuade Christian fundamentalists in the Republican Party, who do want to impose their faith on the Oval Office, that he is sufficiently Christian for them to support his bid for the Republican nomination.

    Let me put it this way, if a Mormon Democrat were running, this might not be as big of an issue.

  15. if a Mormon Democrat were running, this might not be as big of an issue.

    Or it might be worse, as several articles (such as at or at the New Republic) show that the secular left has as much, if not more, antipathy towards Mormons. This is not just a Relgious right thing, no matter how much the media and the left pretend it is.

    And I doubt that Romney could do anything to make the NYT happy. As #22, that’s a dog bites man story. (Breaking News! The New York Times Editorial page doesn’t like Republicans!)

  16. The secular left doesn’t care about dogma so much. They care about abortion and SSM and so on. So I think the dynamics with a Mormon Democrat would depend on whether his political views were mainstream secular liberal or not. If they weren’t, Mormonism would suddenly be a point of attack, but not until then.

  17. I disagree with Brooks assessment, both of Romney’s speech and of the meaning of America’s public religiousness. Brooks should have known better too, because he obviously read Jon Meacham’s book, “American Gospel.”

    Meacham does a fantastic job documenting that the separation of church and state in America was founded on the idea of a public display of religion being allowed in the public sphere. Most Americans, then and now, believe in a creator. And of those that didn’t believe in God, most were (and are) hardly offended by such displays.

    The founders knew that the points of dissension that they needed to worry about were sectarian in nature. Meacham shows that they carefully referred only to the “God of nature” in the Declaration of Independence precisely to avoid such sectarian strife. The founders allowed for and encouraged American’s to build upon their common faith in God by holding to this “non-denominational” view of God, thus avoiding religious dissension.

    And yet Brooks takes offense that Romney would try to build further upon this religious common ground. Says Brooks: “In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things … He wants God in the public square, but then insists that theological differences are anodyne and politically irrelevant.”

    This quote shows that Brooks completely misunderstood (or perhaps completely disagrees?) with Jon Meacham’s careful analysis of the intent of the separation of church and state.

    Brooks also raises the idea that public religion is under attack (legal and social) from secularism. Is it true that there are forces within the US that want to remove all religion – even the public religion of our founders – from the public sphere? Is this really the case, or is it a mere bugaboo? I think the response to Romney’s speech by the moral liberal elite media speaks for itself:

    The article states: “The founders understood that in getting down to the business of governing and creating policy, citizens do well to keep religious doctrines at a distance. This vision is at serious risk today.”

    But Romney avoided all reference to anything but the public religion encouraged by the original founders. So in what sense is the original vision of the founders under attack? On the contrary, it seems to me that the seatlepi is the one attacking their vision.

    (From the above post) The NYT editorial board: “[Romney] was trying to persuade Christian fundamentalists in the Republican Party, who do want to impose their faith on the Oval Office, that he is sufficiently Christian for them to support his bid for the Republican nomination.”

    Supporting a non-denominational view of God publically is imposing faith on the Oval office? Again, it seems to me that what is being imposed is a narrow view of the separation of church and state that excludes religious discourse at all.

    Is this a culture war? I don’t believe so. Are most atheists offended when a person mentions God in public or even uses the values from their religion to decide how to vote on issues? I seriously doubt it.

    This is not a culture war, this is a major *political* issue of our day. Romney’s speech was aimed at explaining his stance on this very important political issue, nothing more or less.

  18. #26

    Adam Greenwood –

    I can see that. If Harry Reid were to run for President, it’s likely that the New Republic would not run an article on what a transparent fraud Mormonism is, but the Religous Right might use Mormonism as one more reason to not vote for him. So – good point.

  19. On cj douglass’s point, it’s hard to tell. It seems at least as many Democrats are hesitant about voting for a Mormon, but as Adam points out its hard to know what percentage are thinking of particular issues like gay rights or even abortion. Perhaps if Romney were a Democrat and a pro-gay rights, pro-choice candidate the Democratic anti-Mormon contingent would shrink a bit. He did get elected governor of a pretty big Dem state. I’m still not sure though. I’ve seen numbers that show black protestants are wary. And there’s a whole swath of Democratic voters out there who I don’t understand very well empirically and don’t know personally. Take, for example, Hillary supporters…. (unless you are, cj, in which case I know one!)

    Bruce Nielson: Brooks is a bit unfair to Romney since he focuses on the universalist (“smiley-face”)sentiments near the middle of the speech, ignoring the beginning of the speech, where Romney alludes to a kind of religion which tempers the passions and makes people fit for freedom. I do think that Romney goes a bit far there, not only toward the view that there is a kind of American civil religion which draws upon important elements of many or most particular religious traditions, but that all religions which Romney knows of lead closer to God. But I suspect you’re probably right that the tension is not that different from the same tension that’s existed throughout American history between serious, substantive religious conflct and the desire to promote a kind of civil faith that overlaps with most particular faiths. However, Brooks is onto something that the culture war has led to a greater emphasis on the latter part of the tension, as secularists warn us about religion in general, and the religious downplay theological differences in order to present a unified political front. (It reminds me of a smart student I have, who after hearing that I want to point out the *variety* of the Christian tradition in my Christian political theology course, replied, “But how are believers going to form a single voting bloc in the U.S. if we focus so much on the differences?”)

  20. rest assured JJ, Hillary is not my candidate……I’ve got a thing for trial lawyers……

  21. J, I don’t believe there’s a clean or meaningful distinction between religion and “guiding philosophy.”

  22. I’m going to vote for Hillary next year because I assume this is coming down to HIllary vs. Guliani. My goal is to campaign in Utah REALY HARD for Hillary and to get her, as the democratic candidate, to come in a really distance 2nd after Guiliani. Since I can’t recall the democractic candidate EVER coming in 2nd in Utah (Didn’t Bo Gritz give Bill Clinton a run for his money for third place?), I’m guessing that having Hillary come in 2nd in Utah will send massive shockwave through the Republican party forcing them to change their ways in the next election. :)

    Or at least, that’s my fantasy. Please don’t say anything to distrub it. I prefer my delusions.

  23. Bruce re: 34 Hillary will likely come in just behind Ralph Nader in Utah — whether he runs or not. Given her negatives, I’m sure the Republicans want her to be the Demo candidate.

  24. That’s just it, Who, if I campaign REALLY HARD for Hillary I really really think I might be able to get her to come in a distant second behind Guiliani. Just think about what a massive shockwave of dissent that would cause to have Hillary beat out Ralph Nader in Utah (even though he’s not running)!!!! Woo Hoo!

    Hillary ’08!!!!

  25. Excellent article mallamo. But on the other hand, why do I have my doubts that the democrats want Mormons any more?

    Ack! Flashes of being driven from state to state!

  26. Regardless of your political bias and leaning, all of us owe Mitt Romney our thanks for his recent speech on faith in America. He is helping to break down a tremendous unspoken prejudice and discrimination against an entire church and tradition, and in the process all of the ugliness and bigotry that is associated with that prejudice.

    Today, no serious person questions a women’s competence to run for president. No serious person questions an African-American’s competence to govern our country. Our country has come to far to allow that type of intolerance to have any serious consideration in the public square.

    And yet, according to a recent Los Angeles poll, 37% of people could not vote for any candidate who is Mormon. That sort of religious intolerance is shameful and saddening. Do we really believe that all 6 million US mormons are all unfit to be president soley on the basis of their affiliation with the Mormon church? To sincerely believe that is to live in ignorance and bigotry.

    This ignorance hails from the same discarted lies of history that fueled intolerance against people of color, Jews, minorities, etc.

    In effect, what Mitt Romney did in his speech was to ask all Americans to look in the mirror and examine what kind of core beliefs they espouse and what values they hold close. There is no room for the kind of religious bigotry and prejudice that (apparently) is still manifest in America today. If Mitt’s candidacy can help move the football down the field towards a more religious tolerant America, free from the ugliness and prejudices that always lie just below the surface of attitudes, social feelings, and conversations…. than all of us will be the beneficiaries.

    Gov. Romney, thank you for trying to break down one of the last walls of discrimination left standing in America.

  27. #39:’He is helping to break down a tremendous unspoken prejudice and discrimination against an entire church and tradition, and in the process all of the ugliness and bigotry that is associated with that prejudice.” I agree!
    But what about the Posts on this Blog? I have heard a lot of ‘”ugliness and bigotry” against: Democrats, NY Times, Hillery, Seculars, ‘The Left’, Writers not from the *Right*, etc. Are these comments in the spirit, of his Speech

  28. Chris Caldwell (see the link above) writes the line of the season:

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that a 60-year-old politician with good looks, a private life that is above reproach, a decent record as governor of Massachusetts, a reputation as the saviour of the 2002 winter Olympics in Utah and a quarter-billion dollars earned as a leveraged buy-out specialist must be in want of the presidency.

  29. #42,#43: I agree, this good man wants to run for President, let him. Let Romney be Romney. The Mormon Church is not running, Religion is not running. While Romney says he believes in these things, they are not his Platform, nor the reason he wants anybody to judge him, or vote for/against him. If you want him as your President, ALL people was stop talking about his Mormon Faith, and start talking about his Politics.

  30. Razorfish, ease up on the discrimination bs. You cannot honestly think that people distrusting someone who is mormon being the same as someone distrusting someone who is black or a woman. I mean, being mormon is a choice! People aren’t sending mobs to anyones house, alright, so give me a break.

    “thank you for trying to break down one of the last walls of discrimination left standing in America.”

    One of the last walls of discrimination? I mean, seriously??

  31. veritas,

    Then the burden is on Mormons to choose *not* to be Mormon in order to avoid religious discrimination. Right?

  32. veritas has a good point. There still are many areas of discrimination left to address in America. Frankly, I had the exact same thought when I read razorfish’s comment.

  33. For example, southpaws. Have you noticed how candidates never disclose their handedness? I think this is no coincidence.

  34. #49: That’s because they are all ambidextrous. “But on the other hand…” (And maybe two faced ?)

  35. Veritas says: “Razorfish, ease up on the discrimination bs. You cannot honestly think that people distrusting someone who is mormon being the same as someone distrusting someone who is black or a woman. I mean, being mormon is a choice!”

    I disagree Veritas. If someone didn’t mind African Americans *so long* as they spoke “white English” and avoided all references to African American culture would that person, in your opinion, be non-prejudice? After all, African American culture is a choice, right?

    I would think that such a person is a bigot, personally.

    I have to agree with razorfish on this. What we are seeing happen with Mitt Romney is a confrontation of bigotry regardless of whether or not it’s the last one or not.

    I have my suspicions that Mitt Romney’s speech may well be viewed as a landmark speech 20 years from now.

    We rarely recognize history in the making. The Jewish leaders hardly even noticed the significance of a man named Jesus that claimed to be the messiah, so they didn’t even bother to record anything about him. After all, there had been many such crazy messiahs before and there were after. It wasn’t a blip on the historical radar until centuries later.

    Likewise, it would not surprise me if 20 years from now people mark Mitt Romney’s speech as the day that 63% of Evangelical’s started to wake up and ask themselves, “Why are we complicit with hate groups like the counter cult movement and are we really okay with the fact that it’s caused 36% of us to become bigots?”

    Mitt Romney gently, but boldly, confronted that bigotry and it resounded with the Evangelicals that already didn’t mind voting for him despite his Mormon heritage. While I do not believe it moved many in the remaining 36%, I have high hopes that it will mark the ending of that 63% being blind to what’s happened to their culture.

    Check out the link to Sean Hannity above for an example of an Evangelical leader (Sean’s guest) waking up.

  36. #53: I don’t think 36% of Evangelicals are nessiserally “Bigots” . I have spoken to some who have a calculus that someone who doesn’t talk/think about Christ, is closer to them, than someone who speaks/thinks WRONGFULLY about Christ (i.e. Mormons)

  37. Bob,

    I define intolerance and bigotry the same. I suppose I see intolerance as having a lesser connotation in some cases, but I essentially view them as the same thing.

    How is intolerance defined?

    Well, how do we define “tolerance?”

    Let’s get to the heart of it. Tolerance is by definition not acceptance. It’s not even refraining from being critical. Tolerance is to tolerate something.

    Tolerance is being openly critical but in a civil way.

    Tolerance is agreeing to disagree in a civil way.

    Tolerance is not calling names or mocking others beliefs or cultures (though it’s okay to be critical in a non-mocking way)

    Tolerance is not lying or using half truths

    Tolerance is not pre-judging a person (i.e. prejudice) based on stereotypes about the groups they are a part of

    Mitt Romney is a good example here. If 36% of all Evangelicals (I don’t know if this number is actually true, but the press does print it) won’t vote for or have strong reservations about Mitt Romney because he’s Mormon (and note that the implication here by the way it’s worded is that it has nothing to do with his politics) then the next question we have to ask is how many of them feel that way based on a correct understanding of what Romney believes?

    Now this is where I have to agree with you. Perhaps of that 36%, not all of them are being intolerant. On the other hand, how many of those 36% are nervous about Mitt based on stereotypes or half truths of Mormons that they’ve heard in their Evangelical circles? I would suggest that the percent of that 36% that are pre-judging Romney (i.e. they are being prejudice) based on Mormon stereotypes is probably quite high. If my own experiences with Evangelical’s understanding of Mormon beliefs is any guide, I’d say it’s somewhere just shy of 100%, probably 99% or better.

    Bob, would you see this article as being bigoted in nature?

    She’s a Catholic, not an Evangelical, to be sure, so I’m not using it as an example of an Evangelical here. However, Catholics can also be prejudice, so this is still a valid example.

    Let’s do a quick analysis of what she has to say:

    “Now in addition to asking candidates about boxers or briefs, we have reporters asking Mitt Romney if he wears The Garment, the sacred one-piece, knee-length underwear with Mormon markings and strict disposal rules.”

    >>> How in the world could the means by which a religious person chose to remember their religion matter to a presidential race? Do we feel it’s bigotry to say that orthodox Jew wear “beanee caps”? Would we consider it prejudice to say that Catholics wear “grotesque statues of the gruesome death of their founder around their neck”? This is mocking something sacred to Mormons, plain and simple. Yes, she tries to distance herself from it by saying “reporters asking” but the simple truth is that she brought it up to show how Mormons are a bit weird. (i.e. different from what she is used to.)

    “In “Under the Banner of Heaven,” a best seller about the Mormon faith, Jon Krakauer wrote that Smith was so full of charm, enthusiasm and imagination that “he could sell a muzzle to a dog.”

    >>> This is a half truth as best about Mormons and Smith. Did she bother to talk to Bushman who pointed out that the vast majority of early Mormons joined the Church without ever having met Smith? This is a misrepresentation founded on her own biases.

    “When he was 17, Joseph said, an angel named Moroni came to his bedroom to tell him about some gold tablets that had been buried 1,400 years earlier under a nearby rock. Joseph said he translated hieroglyphics on the tablets using special glasses provided by Moroni, and this became the Book of Mormon.”

    >>> This is an intentionally sacrilegious way of explaining what Mormons believe. This is mocking another religion/culture.

    “After marrying a passel of women, some as young as 14, he had a divine revelation about polygamy that steamed his original wife, Emma. “Emma harangued Joseph so relentlessly about his philandering,” Mr. Krakauer wrote, “that the original intent of the revelation canonized as Section 132 seems to have been simply to persuade Emma to shut up and accept his plural wives — while at the same time compelling her to refrain from indulging in any extracurricular sex herself.” ”

    >>> This is a half truth. To explain such a complex issue this way borders on downright deception. I.e. it’s a lie to only give one side of an argument and portray it as if Romney buys this.

    “Mormons see themselves as the one true religion, and don’t buy all of the New Testament, he said, “which makes it curious why Mitt thinks evangelical Christians are his allies.””

    >>> This is a half truth and again borders on straight up deception about what Mormons believe. How many Mormons think they only believe parts of the New Testament?

    Incidentally, in How Wide the Divide Robinson (an “orthodox” Mormon) pointed out that he believed in all of the New Testament and even in “Biblical Inerrancy” as described by Evangelical scholars. In fact, I was struck by the fact that most Mormons I know seem to believe in the scholarly Evangelical view of Biblical inerrancy because it only states that the original holograms were perfect.

    ““the Mormon Church, while more welcoming, is still not a place that grants women and blacks equal status, and it’s a terrible place to be gay.”

    >>> Again, a deception. What does he mean that blacks are granted equal status? I’m sure he (Krakauer) could explain with anecdotal stories why he holds this opinion (and it’s just that, a statement of fuzzy opinion), but none of this is explained. It’s presented as factual.

    And now that we’re on the subject, how does a Catholic author (Dowd) justify attacking Mormons for their unwillingness to give women the priesthood or support a gay life style? I not only don’t understand this, but I am rather offended that she didn’t point this out herself. Where is the intellectual honesty? Do Catholics get a pass on this because, you know, there are a lot of them that dissent from the Pope on this or something? I’m not sure I get her point in including this.

    “Disguised as a courageous, Kennedyesque statement of principle, the talk was really just an attempt to compete with the evolution-disdaining, religion-baiting Huckabee and get Baptists to concede that Mormons are Christians.”

    >>> We’re we listening to the same speech? I somehow missed the part about Romney trying to convince Baptists that Mormons were Christians, etc. She must have the inspired version of the speech, I guess. But my real problem here is that she is obviously stereotyping Huckabee because he’s an Evangelical Christian.

    Bob, do you honestly believe Dowd was not being intolerant? This is bigotry, plain and simple. There is no other word for it.

    My original point, though I admit the 36% is challengeable, is valid. There is a sizeable minority (certainly not larger than 36% in any case) that really is bigoted against Mormons. They share falsehoods and stereotypes with each other (that originate with hate groups – i.e. the counter cult movement) until they have a hard time seeing a person like Romney as a capable leader because, you know, only an idiot would worship Adam!

    There really isn’t much more to understand about this. Intolerance is the same everywhere and it’s always just as wrong. Dowd probably considers herself a pillar of tolerance not realizing her own hypocrisy.

  38. #55: You must know, I don’t do long posts. I go with Thomas Paine in “Common Sense”: ” The opposite of Intolerance,is not Tolerance, it’s Acceptance.” For me, tolerance is just indifferent, ‘bigotry’ includes hatred.
    I agree, Dowd gets paid for her intolerance and throwing ‘Raw Meat”. But so do many others on both sides. No, I don’t see bigotry in her or her article.
    Where I have a problem with your post, is it doesn’t get us where we want to be. I see Mormonism as a “super sized’ way of thinking, and some one running for President need to be open to/for a few more hot questions than say a Methodist.

  39. Bob, I don’t understand what you are saying. But we can tolerantly agree to disagree nonetheless. :)

    As for Paine saying tolerance is acceptance, I’m not sure where you are getting that. It must be your personal interpretation of him from “The Rights of Man.”


    Paine does say tolerance is wrong, but he’s talking from a 19th century view that laws should not tolerate some types of worship (i.e. some forms are legally accepted and others legally tolerated – i.e. legally recognized as wrong but tolerated)

    And Tolerance is not indifference any more than it’s acceptance. Tolerance can include being strongly and even vehemently against something. But it always excludes hatred of the individual.

    I have no idea what you mean about Mormonism being a “super-sized” way of thinking.

    Nor do I know what you mean that a person running for president needs to be open to a few more questions than a Methodist. (I would think this a true statement — see as the average Methodist is a private citizen — but I have no idea what your point was.)

    * Tolerance is being openly critical but in a civil way.
    * Tolerance is agreeing to disagree in a civil way.
    * Tolerance is not calling names or mocking others beliefs or cultures (though it’s okay to be critical in a non-mocking way)
    * Tolerance is not lying or using half truths
    * Tolerance is not pre-judging a person (i.e. prejudice) based on stereotypes about the groups they are a part of

  40. Dowd certainly edges right up to the very border of the religious version of “Your mamma!” fighting words.

    Still, the first image I remember now from reading her piece in the pre-dawn wee hours was her joke about the gigantic, airy, neo-gothic spires of the Washington Temple. Of course, Dowd is talking about something real here–and, just as Krakauer does, she writes effectively. And architecture itself is certainly a currency of expression and communicates stuff, too!

    Richard O. recently spoke of how there are English-style “battlements” on top of Utah temples. And before I got up this morning, as I was drifting in and out of semi-consciousness, I was thinking about temple architecture. So, there was the quite traditionally New England architecture, if in a most-grand scale, of the Nauvoo Temple. Then, in the West came the use of this new feature of these battlements. Why? Well, to me they sort of say, “We’re here and we’re going to stay here! Try and move us again!” lol. Still, I wonder what cultural elites of the time thought of them, architecturally; did they see them as less experimentally interesting and more in some way culturally strange or even “kitschy”?

    In the Salt Lake Temple alone there were multiple spires, modest yet likewise solid and firm–with three of them facing east and three west. To me, the six of them together seem to represent Brigham Young’s finally reconstituting a new first presidency of three members (of a leader with his counsellors, from out of the Council of the Twelve, which had for a few years acted as the Church’s top governing body) representing the three spires of the Salt Lake Temple on the west–with the three on the east representing the original First Presidency, with Joseph Smith at its head at Nauvoo, back to the East?

    David O. McKay built the Los Angeles Temple which is this huge block thing with a huge spire. Aesthetically, its mammoth shape speaks of both solidity and modernity. After that, temples began to feature high spires. These say, “we’re like Protestant churches in our looking up to heaven, only more grand like the cathedrals of Lutherans and Catholics”(or something. I don’t know.) Anyway, we end up constructing a large white structure near the nation’s capitol with, on each of its ends, these two sets each of three airy spires pointing heavenward. Quite impressive! To Mormons they symbolize “Us”: Worship, obedience to the divine, hoped-for prominence and destiny. Yet to many Washingtonians such as Dowd they must simply represent an alien other-worldliness: a strange and perhaps “Gothic-ness” dressed in a brilliantly cloudy white.

    In almost calling its aesthetics “kitsch,” is Dowd uttering fighting words? (But what is kitsch? Tammy Fay’s mascara? Velvet paintings? But not Gucci? ((How about a tourists’ poncho from Guadelajara?)) :^)

  41. #58: I don’t know RICHARD O., but I bet he could see Jesus in a cheese sandwich. We know a lot about building the early Temples, not much of the above is on target. We still build our Stake Houses New England style. It took BY 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple. It was not a fort. I think it was just Gothic, ( BY did however like building forts). My uncle helped build the LA Temple. The “spire” was to make it the tallest building in LA. There was a 13 story limit then (EQs), It was ‘Modern’ in it’s style. My Grandfather worked on the Manti temple. ‘Kitsch’ was not something the Swedes were into. They fought with BY over their Temples,(Logan and Manti). they wanted them on a hill, to be seen in their Valleys, not in the town center. JS had promised the next Temple after Nauvoo, would be for the Scandinavians.
    Anyway, I remember Obama called Dowd out over his ears. He told her they were “off Limit”. I don’t think she has said anything about them since.

  42. #57: Feel free to disagree with me. There is a long double line forming to my right.
    Read again: Paine did not say ‘Tolerance is Acceptance’. MY “personal interpretations”? Tolerance in condescending. It’s sweeping under the rug. I do not tolerate Wars. I either accept them or oppose them.
    ‘I have no idea what you mean about Mormonism being a “super-sized” way of thinking.” TO ME!: it means Mormonism is not ‘Tolerant’. It demands chance, in individuals and society
    ( as do Evangelical Christians). I think each has an extra duty to show what they think are their limits if they are going to be President of others. I THINK, that’s what Romney was trying to do in is Speech.

  43. #60: Do you tolerate people that disagree with you, Bob? Or do you physically or mentally attack them as you would in war?

    I would certainly agree that tolerance of a war is no virtue in any circumstance. But then you had to go to such an extreme example when no one is talking of such extremities. I would agree if the statement that “tolerance is not always a virtue.” I don’t believe child molestation should be tolerated at all. But I do believe other people of other religious beliefs should be tolerated entirely. Do you, Bob?

    No, tolerance, if properly praticed, is *not* sweeping under the rug. I’m not sure why you believe that, but it sure isn’t what I understand the word to mean.

    As I said, tolerance is being critical wihile being civil, without mocking. Tolerance begins and ends with civilly but actively disagreeing — including if necessary proving the other point of view wrong! What in this is sweeping under the rug, Bob? Again, I don’t get your point here. You seem to be fundamentally misconstruing the concept of “tolerance” for “acceptance” or at least for “pretending there isn’t disagreement.” But that is not tolerance!

    And yes, Mormonism is (or should be) tolerant. It should demand change civilly without mockery of other people’s beliefs. Evangelicalism should be the same way, of course (and usually is, I believe.) Dowd was not being tolerant. She wasn’t being civil at all and she was definitely mocking other people’s beliefs through use of deception. This is intolerance.

  44. #60: Bob, I can’t resist, so I’m going to add one more thing. Dowd is the perfect example of intolerance. If you want a really good example of tolerance, I’d say you (so far) qualify. You are not mocking my point of view nor sweeping your difference of opinion under the rug in the slightest. So you are, by definition, being tolerant of my point of view. I am doing the same to you. Note that tolerance in this sense (and this is the original sense) in no way implies acceptance or avoidance of our disagreement.

    I think I understand what you are getting at, though, Bob. It is true that somewhere along the line some people started using the word “tolerance” to mean “let me believe what I want and just leave me alone!” It started to mean “don’t disagree with me.” But this isn’t tolerance at all. Such a view of tolerance sucks the virtue out of the word and makes it meaningless.

    If Dowd honestly feels that Romney is insincere, as her final conclusion states, there are tolerant ways to approach such a belief without attacking other people’s faith through use of deceptive means like she did. I suppose, though, that those means are probably less entertaining.

  45. #61,62 I do all three: agree, oppose, and tolerate.
    Again, if I said I tolerated you, TO Me, that would being condescending. You are a man with a position that deserved to be agreed to or opposed. But I can also try to be civil. Mocking can be a weaken of mine,(working on it). I don’t worry about Dowd, I tolerate her. I know her profession is to appear intolerance.
    Bruce: “But I do believe other people of other religious beliefs should be tolerated entirely. Do you, Bob? *Nope*. I think they should be reviewed and if considered harmful other people, then opposed.

  46. I don’t know RICHARD O., but I bet he could see Jesus in a cheese sandwich.–Bob, in comment 59.

    Well, OK, while my cheesy speculations regarding the Salt Lake Temple’s half dozen spires are maybe mine alone; what LDS curator and historian Dr. Oman had blogged at T&S here ( ) was that…..

    Most of the windows in our temples are round arched (Romanesque) rather than pointed (Gothic). And then there are those battlements… Linking their design to the embattled and defiant political environment of the nineteenth-century Saints may be true. It is certainly poetic. But when looking for stylistic precedents, the Brits are among the few who put battlements on their religious buildings. And we know that those in charge in pioneer Utah had lived in England.

    The British connection didn’t stop with Church leaders. Many of the skilled craftsmen in pioneer Utah were British convert/emigrants. Angell’s chief draftsman was British-born William Ward who also designed Young’s Gothic Revival Lion House with its battlements. Ward even carved the stone lion over the door.

  47. Breezily dismissing the analysis of temple architecture from the curator of the church’s art history museum has got to be one of the most shockingly misinformed comments ever hosted at T&S, and that’s saying something. Let’s bring this conversation to a timely end.

  48. JG, as bad as that is, and it’s pretty bad, I recoil from the thought that that was our most shockingly misinformed comment ever. On the other hand, I can’t, offhand, think of a more egregious example.

    Perhaps we should have a monthly contest.

  49. #63: Bob, you obviously define “tolerance” very differently than I do, to the point of it not even be related to the my stated definition. In my opinion, you are probably defining it differently than what the word actually means. Be that as it may, though you have not given a definition of “tolerance” it is clear that your definition of tolerance (whatever it might be) is mutually exclusive from opposing something — whereas I’ve already pointed out multiple times that as I understand the word opposing is *part* of the very definition of tolerance.

    If I’m opposing it civilly and not being deceptive, being condescending (i.e. mockery, etc.), or using physical violence, I’m tolerating it.

    If I’m not opposing it I’m not “tolerating” it per se, I’m either ignoring it or accepting it.

    In any case, it would appear that if you took my definition rather than your own that you do in fact agree with me. You do not seem to be in favor of lying about a person because you disagree with them and you don’t seem to be in favor of stoning them or beating them because they disagree with you.You don’t seem to feel it’s right to mock them either or stereotype them as a way of dismissing them rather than actually dealing with the truth about their beliefs.

    As such, you believe in full tolerance (as I already defined the term, in any case) to *all* religious belief systems (so long as it stays just beliefs that is) for all people — exactly what I was saying.

    I can hear your objection coming, so let me head it off at the pass: admittedly if we’re talking about fundamentalist Islam terrorists, no, there is no need to tolerate their terrorist acts. But if they don’t act on it but simply believe as a fundamentalist, than, yes, they their beliefs should be tolerated: i.e. they should be opposed with truth and with words, not with deception, mockery, lies, or violence. (None of which are necessary to effectively oppose them and will likely empower them.)

  50. #65: If you are referring to me, I did say I was uninformed as to who Richard O was. Nor had I read or been told of his Post. I regret this. I now know and have read his fine post. I was responding to the Post of ‘Just me”, that BY was building some kind of fort. I said BY was merely copying Gothic architecture. If this was ” one of the most shockingly misinformed comments ever hosted at T&S” I regret that too. I don’t place myself at the level of Richard Oman, But I do have some knowledge of the history of architecture, and Mormon Temple building.

  51. *65&#66: ” shocking”…”.. egregious”! Come on guys! Wrong, maybe, boring, maybe, (but it did make the cut). If you want to believe in BY’s fort, fine (although he did bury it when his enemy was coming). If you want to circle your Elitist wagons against the Unwashed, fine too.

  52. #67: You are are, we view tolerance differently. Now, I am going out and cut my grass, I can’t tolerate it anymore.

  53. #70: Exactly Bob! Can you imagine what it would be like if you used the same definition of “tolerate” for people’s religious beliefs as you just did about your grass? If you didn’t tolerate their beliefs, it would mean you wouldn’t permit them to believe what they wanted, just like you won’t permit your grass to keep growing. Glad we could finally agree! :P

    Boy, the examples are running a bit over now. I think I won’t tolerate goofing off at work any more and will end this.

  54. re: Mclaughlin Group: I mean, who would have ever thought Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift would be defending Mormonism on The Mclaughlin Group? It was that bad.

  55. Let’s see, the bigoted ignoramus Larry O’Donnell acting like a crazy man who calls Mormons ignorant bigots who are crazy. No one does bigotry like the far left trying to point out bigotry.

  56. How I summarized reactions to Romney’s “Faith in America” speech elsewhere (that is, on Wikipedia ) is

    Romney is the third U.S. presidential candidate of the Mormon faith to credibly threaten to achieve a major political party’s nomination.

    The first of these three was Romney’s own father, George W. Romney, a progressive on Civil Rights who had been the savior of American Motors Corporation, who, while governor of Michigan, stood in 1967 as a popular alternative to Richard M. Nixon for the Republican nomination. The second was Mo Udall, the liberal Arizona congressman who gained considerable support throughout the 1976 primary race as a rival to centrist Jimmy Carter, whom had campaigned as a devout evangelical. During the latter part of Udall’s campaign, Udall had faced criticism from black activists concerning the fact that the church stated as Udall’s religious affiliation, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the formal name of the Mormon church), barred blacks from holding its lay priesthood (which policy, incidentally, the LDS Church did not change until 1978). In response to this criticism, Udall withdrew nominal affiliation with the denomination in 1976.

    Mitt Romney differs from Udall in Romney’s social conservativism; yet, similarly to Udall’s rivalry with the outspokenly evangelical candidate Jimmy Carter, one of Romney’s chief rivals in 2007 was also a self-professing evangelical and former Southern governor, Mike Huckabee, who is a social conservative populist.[1]

    While the speech was perceived a response to Huckabee’s mercurial rise in the polls in late November within first caucusing Iowa, soon to cast ballots on Januaury 3 (in which likely caucus goers are deemed to be over 40-per-cent evangelical), with commentators opining that Romney hoped it would effective answer the media’s longtime pre-occupation with the hurdle manifested by Romney’s heterodox faith, Romney’s campaign billed the speech as extolling American freedom of worship while helping to satisfy public curiosity about how Romney’s strain of religious devotion would inform presidential governance.

    (Summary.) Mitt Romney gave a speech at the George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library in Texas, with the former president providing introductory remarks. The speech, which was widely regarded as referencing that of then-Senator John F. Kennedy’s September 1960 pledge not to allow Catholic doctrine to inform policy, discussed the role of religion in American society and politics.

    Romney’s speech gives primacy to the American Constitutional right of religious liberty, which produces cultural diversity and vibrancy of dialogue. He called for public acknowledgements of God such as within Holidays religious displays. Romney said, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.”[2]. He cited a religious nature to historic abolitionists’ campaigns, the campaign for American Civil Rights, and the contemporary campaign for the Right to Life. Romney advocated maintanance of a separation of Church and State, stating that he, as president, would decline directives from churches’ hierarchies, including that of the Mormon church.

    Romney said while there are those who would prefer he indicated he holds his LDS faith merely as a tradition, in actual fact he believes in his faith and tries to live according to its teachings, and while sacraments and confession of Romney’s “church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths,” he still holds Christ “the Son of God and Savior of mankind.” Romney declined to address further the specifics of his Mormonism, implying that any compulsion to do so would counter the Constitutional prohibition of a religion test for political office.

    (Commentary.) While the speech received wide praise [3] Eugene Robinson has argued that Romney implied that nonreligious people cannot be proper Americans, and called that assertion “a form of bigotry”; MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann called the speech a “shameful and shameless self-comparison to the thirty-fifth president.”[4]

    In a telephone interview with Romney on Friday evening, I asked him why he had, to many ears, seemed to fail to reach out to those of no religious belief: “I was struck that you did not explicitly extend the definition of religious liberty to those who believe nothing at all …”

    In an interview with Newsweek, Romney said, “I don’t think I defined religious liberty….it includes all, all forms of personal conviction….The people who don’t have a particular faith have a personal conviction. I said all forms of personal conviction. And personal conviction includes a sense of right and wrong and any host of beliefs someone might have. Obviously in this nation our religious liberty includes the ability to believe or not believe.”[5]

    Universityy of Chicago law profesor Geoffrey R. Stone argues that America’s Founding Fathers, as freethinkers whose ideals sprung more from the Enlightenment, were reacting against Colonial-era Dissenters religious pieties arising from the Reformation/Counter-Reformation than they were expressing these pieties.[6] Historian Jan Shipps finds Mitt’s reference to the Founders’ piety to be quintessentially Mormon.[7]

    (Immediate responses from fellow Republican candidates.) After the speech, one of the two current Republican front runners, Rudolph Giuliani said that Romney had done “what he had to do.” Said Giuliani. “It would be better if he didn’t have to do that.”

    On the Today show, Huckabee used Romney’s speech as an opportunity to emphasize his own “authentic” views as did Fred Thompson in an radio interview in Iowa. “Sen. John McCain acknowledged being locked up with atheist POWs who nevertheless were ‘patriots’ in an interview with ABC News”.[8]

    On Fox News Sunday, Huckabee said it was inappropriate for voters to consider the tenets of Mormonism in judging Romney’s candidacy, but rather should judge Romney on his record.[9]

    Republican candidate and ideological Libertarian Ron Paul released a statement saying that while Paul feels uncomfortable talking about his faith in the political arena, he supports religious tolerance, comes to his own faith through Jesus Christ, and believes any attacks implying Romney unfit to serve only due Romney’s faith “fly in the face of everything America stands for.”

    (“Comma problem.”) After the speech was delivered, Romney’s advisors told reporters off the record that Romney said that through its means he wanted to address his “comma problem”: the common practice to put next to his name in media reports, “(comma) who is a Mormon (comma).”

    [1] “Evangelicals help propel Huckabee into the lead, poll shows” Dec. 9, 2007, Kansas City Star
    [2] MSNBC “On the ground at Romney speech” 6 December 2007
    [3] Opinion pieces and editorials,5143,695234288,00.html
    [4] Eugene Robinson on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, December 7, 2007. A clip containing this comment can be found here. [
    [5] Romney quote in Newsweek
    [6] Geoffrey R. Stone’s commentary
    [7] Jan Shipps’ commentary
    [8] “Rebecca Walsh: Romney propped up bigots” op-ed piece, Dec. 12, 2007 Salt Lake Trubune
    [9] Huckabee and McCain on Fox News Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007

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