Today, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney gave "The Speech", you know the one about religion in American life and how he being an adherent to the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, would affect how he governs should he win the White House in 2008.
And, Mr. Romney hit a home run. Not a grand-slam home run, but one that cleared the fences, the air and should put all of these matters to rest.
The setting was in a place called Texas, near Houston where another American president, John F. Kennedy had to overcome the real anti-Roman Catholic bias that swept a wide swath of America, not just the south. It was at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station. The former president introduced Mr. Romney and Mr. Romney started talking about the Bush 41 generation as the the greatest generation and how they stared down and defeated the fascists and later the Soviet communists.
It was a real set up for the very serious and sober remarks that he would make.
By beginning the meat of the speech as a discussion of religious liberty, he drew an immediate contrast between what we do here in the United States and the radical Islamics who oppose religious liberty and what their vision of the world, and the United States, would be.
Mr. Romney went on to assure the world that no authorities in the LDS hierarchy would dictate to him and he not to them.
Then, Mr. Romney went on to talk about how he was as the governor of Massachusetts. That should have been enough on its merit, but the nation needs to know what Mr. Romney is all about from Mr. Romney, not the prism of a media that is totally hostile to the Mormons and to faith in general.
As the speech went on, Mr. Romney in firm language defended his church and affirmed his belief in the teachings of the LDS. Mr. Romney addressed how some would like him to distance himself from some LDS beliefs and that it was his religion as a matter of tradition. He said in unequivocal terms, no way. And here is the best line of the speech:
"Some think that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience."
Yes, I know, some take issue because of Mr. Romney coming around on some of the social issues and maybe on the all important issue of illegal immigration, but what he was talking about is one's faith. Mr. Romney is right. He believes what he does and is not going to be a rejector, or what I would refer to as a cafeteria Catholic. You know, the ones who never attend the Mass and say that they do not agree with church teaching on this or that. They pick and choose what they like. Mr. Romney is saying, when it comes to my faith, I believe it, period.
That is when the home run cleared the fence.
Later in the speech, Mr. Romney made a very pointed reference to the decline of the Christian faith in Europe when he talked about the great cathedrals that now sit almost empty and given Sunday. Mr. Romney said, and this is important, that many are too enlightened to ever step a foot in to pray.
That is powerful. To say that no matter how much knowledge we have, we should actually get on our knees and thank the one that made it all possible-God.
And, at the heart of the contrast between religious freedom that we find here in the United States, Mr. Romney took dead-straight aim at our enemy-radical Islam.
Mr. Romney contrasted the lack of faith in Europe with the fanaticism of the radical Islamics, describing theirs as a creed of conquest by blood, not of reason or example.
Mr. Romney also struck a chord for respecting other religions and saying, in true American fashion that anyone who believes in religious liberty and knelt down in prayer is a friend of his.
And that is how it should be. Period.
The tone and context of the speech showed that Mr. Romney is ready for prime time. It stands in stark contrast to another former governor, Arkansas' Mike Huckabee who in the Republican debate last week treated us with a commercial touting one of his credentials as a Christian leader. What Mr. Romney was saying is that he is a man of faith and he, as president, will not force people to adhere to the tenants of the LDS. He does not tout himself as a Christian and or a Mormon leader.
What Mr. Romney did, beyond all the analysis and smoke was set the record straight. That he is a man of faith and an adherent to the Christian faith as best knows, and that is as a Mormon. And he said that he respected those of other faith traditions as American as is he.
Now, people need to get beyond this and listen to what all the candidates have to say. All I can affirm is that now, more than ever, I believe that we heard a major address by the next president of the United States.