One has to admit it’s mildly ironic. When the heat was on early in the primaries, many evangelicals stood with Rick Santorum, and rallied against Romney because he is a Mormon. But, then again, when a candidate wants to drum up the fear, you say what you need to say.
Romney said in an interview released Tuesday with the Washington National Cathedral's magazine, Cathedral Age, that, “Every religion has its own unique doctrines and history…these should not be bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance.” I couldn’t agree more. Yet, Romney’s own party has acted counter to this sentiment. In fact, many in his own party are diseased with Islamophobia. Moreover, to support this sentiment one needs the First Amendment.
Then again, that Amendment has always been up for debate. Suffice to say that Romney displays a bit of irony supporting a “test of our tolerance” while at the same time saying that people are trying to eradicate God from the public domain. As long as the Declaration or Constitution remains, there will always be a mention of “God.”
But that’s not the point. The point is that Romney doesn’t get it. In the interview he continued saying, “We are a nation 'Under God, 'and in God, we do indeed trust.” Does Governor Romney realize we only just became a “nation under God” on Flag Day, 1954 when Eisenhower signed the bill changing the wording into law? We haven’t been “under God” that long.
As it turns out, a recent poll showed that Republican and Democratic voters aren’t too concerned with Romney’s faith. Why? Well, for starters it might be because the First Amendment has helped create a culture of tolerance and respect. It only mattered in the primaries because there was an alternative for evangelicals.
Instead of critiquing it, Romney should probably insure that it remains intact. He should talk about how thankful he is for the protections it affords. He could even talk about how remarkable it is that he doesn’t have to defend himself against attacks on his religion like John F. Kennedy did. Then again, he would have to step out and be his own person, his own candidate. As of now, he remains the candidate of big interests and big money.
The Founders did not intend any specific, linear reading of the First Amendment. The First Amendment was broad for a reason, and it has worked. The First Amendment must continue to work, and that will only if those that desire to lead this nation are willing to further tolerance and freedom of religion. Romney missed out on the opportunity to demonstrate the ability to be a leader for a diverse, multifaith group called “America.” He played the part demanded, and it was lackluster at best.