Mitt Romney: Secular When It Suits Him
I’m not a big US politics buff, but from what I have observed Mitt Romney has been blatantly inconsistent in his views on the importance of politicians’ religion. On the one hand, he invokes the secular Constitution while imploring the electorate to not discriminate against him for his Mormon faith. On the flip side, he is quite clear in his discrimination against non-religious and Muslim persons.
Lets review some of his statements:
First he said that America needs a leader of great faith. In saying this, he marginalizes the nonreligious and endorses a theistic litmus test for Presidency. This, though, is consistent with his misinterpretation of what secularism is. Romney is of the persuasion–or at least he suggests that he is–that secularism is solely about neutrality of religions in the public sphere, rather than being this in addition to public neutrality with respect religious versus non-religious positions.
More recently, when asked if he would be willing to have an Islamic cabinet member, he said said no, on the basis that Muslims don’t represent a substantial proportion of the US population. It should be added, though, that Romney was more willing to have a Muslim person working in a lower-ranking position.
Most recently, Romney said that the particular faith off a presidential candidate shouldn’t serve as a litmus test for the White House. “A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith.” He said this so as to avoid having to go into the specifics of his Mormon faith. However, when asked his thoughts on Jesus Christ he was more than happy to declare that Christ is the lord and savior of mankind. But I thought he didn’t want to talk about his personal religious views?
So Romney doesn’t want a theistic litmus test for the Presidency, but he also does not want an atheist president or a Muslim cabinet member. Romney believes that he should not speak about his Mormon faith as that would conflict with the Constitution’s specification that there be no religious litmus test for public office. But he will happily address areas of overlap between his Mormon views and the predominating views of American Christians–particularly Right Wing Christians.
What all of this seems to boil down to is that Romney wants to be secular when it suits him and unsecular when it suits him. He wants his Mormonism to be considered irrelevant to voters, but he does not want an Atheist President or a Muslim cabinet member. He wants to talk about the areas of overlap between his religious beliefs and those of his potential supporters, but when it comes to answering questions regarding areas in which his beliefs and those of the Right Wing Christian population diverge, he invokes the Constitution. While Romney may pay lipservice to secularism and try to model himself after Kennedy, he is blatantly antisecular. He has no problem discriminating against anyone other than mainstream American Christianity and Mormons–this favouring of certain religious perspectives over others is the direct antithesis to secularism.