UNITED STATES: by John ElsegoodNews Weekly
Mitt RomneyÂ’s White House bid under attack
, July 9, 2011
A leading U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been attacked for his religious beliefs by a leading American evangelical Christian publisher.
Romney, a former Governor of Massachusetts and now a leading candidate for the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often referred to as the LDS Church, or the Mormons).
Warren Cole Smith, an associate publisher of World, America’s largest-circulation Christian news magazine, recently wrote an article entitled “A vote for Romney is a vote for the LDS Church”.
Romney’s defenders have protested that if a Mormon can’t be elected president of the Great Republic, then it gives the lie to everything that America is supposed to represent and puts a religious bar on the office.
Further, if being a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) were the main criterion, then the 1980 election would have seen the re-election of born-again Jimmy Carter as president. Instead Christian evangelicals voted in droves for the twice-married Ronald Reagan, a very occasional churchgoer.
The reason for that was because Reagan was deemed to be a more competent politician than the hapless Carter when it came to providing national leadership on foreign policy, health care and steering the U.S. onto a sound economic path.
Promoting Romney’s candidacy is David French, who since 2006 has been organiser of a body called Evangelicals for Mitt (EFM).
A lawyer by profession, a Presbyterian by conviction and a patriot by choice (having served in the U.S. military in Iraq), French lampooned Warren Cole Smith over his contention that voting for Romney was a vote for Mormonism by looking at other Mormon identities and their enterprises.
He asked: “Does voting for Harry Reid (U.S. Senate majority leader) want to make you want to talk to a Mormon missionary? How about when you fly Jet Blue? During a smooth comfortable flight do you use the in-flight wi-fi to surf LDS.org?
“Does a particularly elegant turndown service at the high-end Marriott put you in the mood to download the Mormon Tabernacle’s Choir’s greatest hits? If you’re a sports fan, did watching (footballer) Steve Young connect with Jerry Rice make you complete an application to BYU (Brigham Young University)?”
Initially, when French and his wife started EFM, they didn’t know Romney personally, but just had a respect for his integrity, strong marriage and family life, his record of real accomplishment in business and politics, and they shared his political and cultural values.
However, since then, French has seen at close quarters the way the Romneys have treated people, even when they lost tough political battles in 2008.
French recalled: “He and Ann reached out to my wife during my family’s greatest challenge [when French was sent to Iraq] and opened up their home for some much needed rest and recuperation…. (It was) a wonderfully Christian thing to do.”
Romney’s critics say his support of a universal health care program as Governor of Massachusetts while now opposing Obamacare, and his change of mind from pro-choice to pro-life on abortion are examples of a political opportunist, a flip-flopper.
As a former governor of a very liberal state, Romney faced reality concerning universal health cover and, even after vetoing eight portions of the legislation, he had his veto overridden by the Massachusetts legislature. He has consistently said that this is a states’ rights issue because there is a wide divergence of opinion on the matter and what flies in a liberal state is not necessarily the subject of approval in a conservative one.
Romney eventually signed a bill that had passed with bipartisan support and with the support of the conservative Heritage Foundation. Obamacare has never had such support.
As for changing his mind on abortion, well, most pro-life and pro-family groups could hardly object to Romney’s Damascus Road conversion. A chap called Ronald Reagan once travelled the same road.
Romney declared that he believes that life begins at conception and, while he was at one stage in favour of a pro-choice position, when faced with the political responsibility plus attempts to expand abortion rights he used his veto rights.
His views on homosexual rights are similar. While he backs anti-discrimination in employment, housing and other issues, he is not prepared to recognise same-sex marriage.
That puts him squarely in line with the majority American viewpoint, as measured by countless state referendums on the subject, and squarely at odds with powerful elites.
John Elsegood is a Perth freelance journalist and a teacher of history and politics.