Mitt Romney's atrocious, insulting, and historically illiterate speech on religion and politics is being hailed as "genius" and "brilliant" and "JFK-like" by all the usual idiots-- Chris Matthews, Mona Charen, Hugh Hewitt, and the rest of the right wing chimpanzee cage. Personally, I found it to be enormously offensive. Kevin Drum speaks for me:
[When JFK spoke about religion in 1960] he at least threw out this bone:
I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end — where all men and all churches are treated as equal — where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice.
Compare this to Mitt Romney's deeply offensive speech this morning addressing fears of his Mormon faith:
Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom....Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.
....Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people.
....Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests.
I can't tell you how much this pisses me off. I'm well aware that this is par for the course among Republican politicians these days, and Romney is doing nothing more than engaging in what's become routine conservative disparagement of those of us who aren't religious. But the cowardice and pandering here is just phenomenal.
Yes, folks, if you're non-religious--like me--you're just not free and really just not a true American. This kind of crap is exactly what Romney's Dominionist, theocratic audience wants to hear. Romney was telling them, in plain language, hey don't be against me because I'm a Mormon. Hate the same people I do--anyone who refuses to bow down to religion. The argument is designed to reduce people like me to second class citizenship. (Antonin Scalia, the most dangerous member of the Supreme Court with the possible exception of Clarence Thomas, feels the same way. See my post from 2005 here.)
"Freedom requires religion"? Where does THAT idiocy come from? I've said it before and I'll say it again: even if there were no God, there would still be moral rules and popular government could still exist. This fantasy that religion created America's freedom is nonsense. The historical record shows that religious tolerance in America was only painfully won. The Puritans, for example, didn't come here to advocate religious freedom--they came to escape Anglican persecution in England and to establish a theocracy in Massachusetts. Only with the greatest difficulty were the raging religious disputes in pre-independence America brought under control.
A letter by Chris Brown on TPM yesterday sums the history of this issue up very well:
I watched Romney's speech, which amounted to the pandering in which he specializes. Not only is the guy greasy, he's ignorant of the intent of the Fist Amendment establishment clause.
Thomas Jefferson explains clearly in his autobiography that at its very foundation our nation was created under God - not under Christ. This is particularly evident in Jefferson’s report of debate in the Virginia General Assembly (the oldest legislature of the U.S.) during its work of reviewing and rewriting the colonial legal code, to a form more appropriate “to our republican form of government”, an undertaking mandated by legislation proposed by Jefferson and adopted by the General Assembly.
A Committee of the Assembly composed of “Mr. Pendleton, Mr. Wythe, George Mason, Thomas L. Lee and myself”, Jefferson wrote, had divided the colonial code into statutes deriving from different historical periods “from the Magna Carta to the present”, to review and recommend appropriate revisions. The Committee (minus Mr. Lee who had died shortly after appointment) reported and recommended 126 different bills to the General Assembly on June 18, 1779, one of which, drafted by Jefferson, addressed religious freedom.
“The bill for establishing religious freedom”, Jefferson wrote, “I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that ‘coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion’, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ’, so that it should read ‘Jesus Christ the holy author of our religion.’ The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew, the gentile, the Christian, and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”
And so it was Jefferson, perhaps the leading political theorist of his time, who, some 10 years before the U. S. Constitutional Convention, produced a draft of the constitution for the new state of Virginia, which Madison later crafted into the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Jefferson’s Virginia “Bill for Religious Freedom”, eloquently transformed by Madison, became the 1st Amendment guarantees of religious freedom. Madison was the craftsman - Jefferson was the architect.
In the ensuing years the Supreme Court has many times supported its church/state decisions by quoting Jefferson. From Taylor v United States (1879), the Court’s first decision under the religion clause, to Everson v Board of Education (1947), in which the Court used Jefferson’s “wall of separation” metaphor in declaring “The first amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state. The wall must be kept high and impregnable”.
The guarantees of religious freedom for each of us, including “infidel(s) of every denomination”, were the creation of two prominent Virginia planters who chafed under the collar of the state established Anglican church, profession to which, in many colonies, was required for a citizen to vote or hold office, and financial support of which was mandatory and often coerced. Jefferson and Madison worked with George Mason and Patrick Henry and with Baptists and Presbyterians to finally, in 1786, disestablish the state church through the adoption by the Virginia General Assembly of Jefferson’s “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom”. Disestablishment soon spread through the South, and ended in Massachusetts in 1833 with the separation of the authority of the Congregationalist church from that of the civil government.
Well said. This country is founded on religious liberty, which includes the right NOT to believe anything at all. Romney is simply sucking up to right wing religious prejudice and fanaticism and trying to exclude me from my own country. Well, he's damned well not going to. And, by the way, I have every right to criticize Mormonism without being called a religious bigot. That's not how things work, Willard (Mitt's real name). In America, free speech includes the right to attack other people's opinions. I think your religion is a crock, the most insane collection of nonsense this side of Scientology. I will defend to the death your right to believe it, but that doesn't make it any less of a steaming heap of manure.
You may think my non-belief is also a steaming heap, Willard. You've just gotten done saying so. Only I don't get the sense that you'd stick up for me the way I'd stick up for you. That's why I'll do everything possible to keep you out of power.
This country is better than you are.