Saw this on the Politico and actually took a few moments to watch the video.
The situation is this: Governor Mitt Romney** is being videotaped while on the air at WHO, an Iowa talk radio station. In this interview, they go off the air and Romney is given a rather pointed recommendaton not to run away from his faith.
Fast forward to about 12:30 min remianing into the video:
Now I have a family friend who dated my mother for about 10 years or so… a Mormon who taught me as an adolescent a heck of a lot about family, faith, and being a man.
Needless to say, I’m dually sympathetic. Not just because I am watching someone pointedly challenge Romney for his faith, but because as a Catholic, I was taught very early about the tremendous significance of President Jack Kennedy being elected in 1960.
Kennedy’s election meant that Catholics were no longer “other” in America, but had mainstreamed into the American narrative. We had a voice, were “American” enough to lead. Our values were no longer seen in the light of the later half of the 1800’s, where NINA laws and anti-Catholicism was (and to some, remains) an acceptable prejudice.
Specifically in this video, Romney is being asked whether or not he will legislate as he believes… and off the air, is asked why he is “hermunetically sealing” (or dividing) his faith from his politics.
Romney (to his credit) handles the question very well, and in a similar fashion that Kennedy handled it when asked in 1960 whether he would legislate his faith. Kennedy’s answer was simple: the moment he felt a conflict, he would resign.
Of course, Kennedy never had to grapple with questions we would consider “social issues”. But once again, we are presented with the concept that certain faiths, certain beliefs, and certain ideas are incompatible with the American narrative.
In 1960, it was Catholicism. In 2008, it is Mormonism.
I have long argued that no one should be asked to check their faith at the door to public service. Likewise, government does have a responsibility to approve moral laws, reject immoral laws, and have the proper judgment to discern between the two.
Does this individual have the “proper judgment” to legislate? That last part — proper judgement — is the only question we have to ask of Mitt Romney, or any other political candidate for any public office.
When this kind of inquisitive needling of political candidates emerges, I cringe. We did this to Kennedy in 1960. We do it today to anyone who professes faith (or more accurately, is specific about what they believe) as part of their character.
America’s strength has always been its ability to absorb cultures, opinions, and faiths. It has never been a smooth or formal process. Yet time marches on, and American culture continues to mature.
We should become aware when the rough patches occur, and be equally suspect when political candidates are stereotyped and broadbrushed into demagogues. That’s what happened here, and its never an isolated incident.
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