In the Washington Times, Tod Lindberg writes, “Mitt Romney is an attractive and popular conservative governor from a distinctly liberal state.” Right on. However, he says:
[T]he question on everyone’s mind is his Mormon faith. Is this a problem with voters or, more likely in my view, is this something voters worry that others will think is a problem? Or is it, in the end, not an issue, but something that needs to be worked through, like the idea of a Catholic president?
It’s none of the above, really. Gov. Romney’s Mormonism should not be a deal breaker for evangelicals, and recent experience shows that it need not be. As we have said:
To be perfectly clear, we believe Gov. Romney is not only acceptable to conservative Christians, but that he is clearly the best choice for people of faith. He is right on all the issues, and he has proven his positions with actions. He is a gifted and persuasive spokesman for our political and moral values. Here is the bottom line: the 2008 election is for president, not pastor. We would never advocate that the Governor become our pastor or lead our churches—we disagree with him profoundly on theological issues. But we reject the notion that the president of the United States has to be in perfect harmony with our religious doctrine. In fact, that is not a test that has been applied before—after all, Jimmy Carter was probably more theologically in line with evangelicals than Ronald Reagan, yet we believe that Reagan was clearly the better choice in 1980.
Let’s leave the absurd religious litmus test to the Democrats. What we want is a president who shares our moral and political values and will put them into action. A President Romney would do that—just as he’s done in Massachusetts—making him stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
Finally, it is not just our theory that evangelicals will support Governor Romney. In March, 2006, he shocked the political establishment by finishing second at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll in Memphis, Tennessee. We led the grassroots effort that put him above John McCain and George Allen, and where did he get the vast majority of his support? From the very Southern evangelicals who the media is convinced will not support a Mormon from Massachusetts.
And it’s also not the same as JFK’s Catholicism. His famous 1960 speech was basically about how his faith would not inform his governance. Again, back to our statement:
Gov. Romney does not just say he supports traditional marriage; he has defended traditional marriage at great political cost. In 2003, through a breathtaking act of judicial activism, Massachusetts’ supreme court imposed same-sex “marriage” on the state. If not for Gov. Romney’s swift intervention, this action may have led to a national constitutional crisis. Same-sex couples from across the U.S. could have come to Massachusetts, gotten “married,” and then demanded that their home states honor the “marriages”—creating a national wave of litigation and conflicting decisions from state to state. Instead, Gov. Romney and his staff vigorously enforced a little-known 1913 law that prevents out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would be illegal in their home state, keeping Massachusetts from becoming, as he called it, “the Las Vegas of ‘gay marriage.’” He followed this stand with a dynamic and articulate response to Democratic efforts to dramatically expand embryonic stem cell research.
These values come from the Governor’s faith–he has been very clear about this. So the way to handle his Mormonism is not to deny that it is part of his life and, dare I say it, even his politics. It is simply to point out that what is important in a presidential race is these shared values, not doctrinal differences that do not matter policy-wise. David’s recent post has much more on this.