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Monday, December 3, 2007
posted by Jon | 10:59 AM | permalink
I guess history really does repeat itself. Conventional wisdom would dictate that John F. Kennedy had successfully dealt with the issue of a presidential candidate’s religion back in the 1960s – well before I was born. The United States of America has been headed by Deists, Methodists, a Catholic, and even a Quaker. It was enough to know that a candidate had a religious faith – nobody including me really cared to know much beyond that.

It seemed as though the American body politic saw the wisdom inherent in Article VI of the United States Constitution – no religious test could be used in determining fitness for public office. The Founders saw the danger in using someone’s religion – or lack thereof – as a litmus test for public service. The Constitution guarantees the freedom to practice any religion – or none at all.

There was a concern when JFK made his run for the Oval Office that he would be subject to the whims and dictates of the Pope in Rome. As the first Catholic with a real shot at the American Presidency, Kennedy saw the need to dispel this rumor and did so with a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960.

Kennedy was rather prophetic (if I may be so bold as to use the term) with this paragraph from his speech:

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril. (Emphasis Added)
Well, ladies and gentlemen, today it’s a Mormon against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed. The relentless drumbeat calling for Mitt to make a speech explaining his Mormon faith is fueled by thinly veiled religious bigotry. It really is that simple.

This coming Thursday, Mitt will journey to the heart of Texas and make the long awaited and breathlessly anticipated Mormon speech at the George Bush (41) Presidential Library in College Station. I must admit I’m not too happy about Mitt’s decision, but I understand his reasoning for doing so.

It is with that in mind that I humbly offer the following outline for Mitt to use in this speech. He can take it, or leave it, but this is what I would say if I were in Mitt’s shoes:


[Welcome, Thanks to former President Bush for the use of his library, etc, ect, so on and so forth]

America is truly a great nation. One thing that makes her great is the freedom of every single American to practice the religion of their choosing. There is no state religion or church in this nation. Our Founders saw the wisdom in religious liberty and the dangers inherent in using religion as a prerequisite or disqualifier for public service.

Our Founders were indeed wise and inspired men.

Almost 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy came to this state and made a ground breaking address on the issue of a presidential candidate’s religious faith and its possible influence on his ability to govern. Today I come to Texas with much the same mission.

I will not here, nor anywhere else on the campaign trail explain or expound upon the beliefs or tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I am a proud member of this Church, I am not seeking an ecclesiastical office. I am a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America – an office which, last I checked, is a secular one.

I understand there are those who are concerned about the effects my faith will have on my Presidency should I be fortunate enough to follow in the footsteps of great men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. All of these men believed this nation has been blessed by Divine Providence. I share that belief.

The principle beliefs held sacred by all Mormons are found in the Articles of Faith – one of the LDS Church’s founding documents. I will paraphrase the 11th and 12th Articles of Faith in order to more fully explain how my faith influences the way I intend to govern:

[I] claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of [my] own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

[I] believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
My fellow Americans, members of my faith have served honorably in all branches of state, federal and local government. Many have given their lives in the defense of this great nation in nearly all of her wars. Members of the LDS Church have always loved this nation – even when that sentiment was not returned.

America has long had a tradition of judging its presidential candidates on their merits and actions and not their religious faith or lack thereof. John Kennedy wisely warned of the dangers to our harmonious society when people start dissecting the faith of others. We would do well to heed his counsel.

Thank you. May God bless you and may He continue to bless the United States of America.

Good night.

There are a million downsides to Thursday’s speech, and not very many upsides. Those virulent anti-Mormons and those who wear their religious bigotry on their sleeves will not be changed by this speech. Mitt has faced this gauntlet before and I have every confidence that his speech will reach the target audience and have the desired effect.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of American politics that we have to revisit this issue nearly half a century after it was settled. Maybe we haven’t come nearly as far as we thought.
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I don't think this will be much like it at all. Mitt will do well not to speak much about the LDS church and he knows that. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the words "Latter Day Saints" or "Mormon" didn't cross his lips throughout the entire speech.

Mitt appears to be desparate. Huckabee now has a commanding lead in Iowa and Mitt's numbers are falling every week in NH. It was nice knowing you Mitt.

What people forget is that JFK had the same executive experience as Hillary Clinton...none. He had no record to point to. Atleast Mitt has a record to point to that he sided with life as governor, he worked hard as the manager at Bain, the director of the 2002 Olympics, and as a "Christian Leader" as a Bishop and Stake President. I hope he makes it quite clear that Mike Huckabee is not the only candidate who has lead a flock.

I disagree. I think this speech has tremendous upside and little downside. Mitt won't sway those who hate Mormons with this speech, but he also won't lose those who strongly believe in religious liberty even if he botches it. (He won't.)

For me this speech should state: (1) He loves his faith, it's the faith of his fathers and it has given him many values (list a few); (2) He knows many Americans have other faiths, that he is grateful for religious diversity and that he is not running for Prez to convert anyone to his faith; (3) That he won't be taking orders from Salt Lake City as PotUSA; (4) Talk about history of religious liberty/bigotry in America--talk about presidents who were deists, quakers, not religious, JFK, etc. Also talk about Baptist persecution in 1700s being one of the main driving forces for the Bill of Rights. This fourth section should be the most substantial. Quote JFK, Abe and Jefferson.

I believe this type of a speech will lose no voters, gain no hard-core anti-Mormon voters, but will swing many fair-minded evangelicals. My perception is that many evangelicals fear that Mitt will take orders from Utah or that he'll be a converting force for Mormonism. Some are simply skin-deep bigots (meaning a little information and reason could help them past their bigotry).

I'm very happy Mitt's making this speech.

Commanding lead? Since when does a 3% "lead" qualify as "commanding"? Last I checked it was a statistical tie at best with Huckabee's record still waiting to bite him in the hind quarters.

Nice try, Anonymous. Around here we actually do math.

I think that his speech should actually go like this: "Huckabee sucks and here's why..." And then he can list all of the things that suck about Mike Up-Chuck-abee. I'd prefer that speech anyway. This one just scares me.

Well this was a mighty fine speech posted here. I think we may've found our VP.

By Anonymous Zues' speechwriter, at December 3, 2007 at 10:14 PM  

I too am very interested in what the speech will say. Have a look at comment 528 at the "huge gamble story" for another take on the goals and outline of the speech.

Link href="¤tPage=11">here

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 4, 2007 at 7:42 AM  

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees Freedom of Religion ahead of those of speech, the press, and assembly.

Abraham Lincoln handled such a litmus test beautifully during his campaign for Congress in 1846. He basically told an evangelical preacher that his (Lincoln's) beliefs were his own business and no one else's.

It's time that candidates tell the so-called Religious Right the same thing. In America, we are free to choose how, when, where or even if we worship.

Geoff Elliott

The Abraham Lincoln Blog

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