romney9.jpgAs Beliefnet co-founder/CEO/editor-in-chief Steven Waldman noted last week, Mitt Romney’s plea for religious tolerance excluded a pretty big chunk of the American religious landscape: the nonreligious. Is this Romney’s attempt to transcend the Mormonism/traditional Christianity gap by exploiting the overarching “God gap” in American politics? After all, which side one falls on in this latter gap is now among the best predictors of how he or she will vote.
Echoing Waldman, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman makes a pretty strong case that Romney established his own religious test for office last week:

Nowhere did he make the slightest effort to suggest that anyone unsure of the existence of God has anything to contribute to our democratic dialogue. In fact, he went out of his way to denounce decadent European societies “too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to . . . kneel in prayer.”
When he said “we do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation’s symphony of faith,” he drew a line that excludes those professing no creed. Zoroastrians and Taoists in, agnostics out.
As he sees it, any American who doesn’t worship at least one god is eating away at our democratic structure like a hungry termite. He quoted John Adams: “Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.” Romney went further: “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. . . . Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”
He ignores evidence that the framers thought otherwise. The Constitution they so painstakingly drafted contains not a single mention of the Almighty — unlike the Articles of Confederation, which it replaced. A 1796 treaty, signed by that very same John Adams and ratified by the Senate, stipulated that the U.S. government “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

If the founders thought religion was indispensable to a free republic, why does the national charter say “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office”? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to include a religious test?
Romney’s theory that faith is essential to liberty suggests he has yet to visit the modern world. He doesn’t try to explain countries like Germany, France and Norway — free democracies where most people no longer believe in God. Religion is not exactly synonymous with personal freedom in, say, the Muslim world. Organized Christianity once coexisted comfortably with, and often sponsored, oppression in Europe and elsewhere.
The former Massachusetts governor makes equally imaginative claims about those who champion church-state separation. He believes they “are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism.” Oh? You would look long and hard to find any secularist or civil libertarian who thinks the government should officially espouse atheism or encourage Americans to abandon religion.
Believers insist on keeping “In God We Trust” on our currency. Where are the nonbelievers who want to replace it with “There Is No God”? Secularists don’t expect the government to take their side — only to practice neutrality. They think 1) all Americans should be free to practice the religion they choose and 2) none should have the active assistance of the government.
But neutrality between belief and nonbelief is something Romney can’t abide. He thinks the government must be firmly and vocally on the side of religion. Only when it comes to Mormonism versus other religions does he recognize the value of neutrality as a principle. Isn’t that convenient?

Has the GOP become such a thoroughly religious party that Romney could shamelessly declare war on non-believers? Or is this simply his admission that those voters will go to Rudy Giuliani, leaving Romney and Huckabee to duke out for the faithful?


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