Dear Utah Bill: Your e-mail today deserves an “A” for substance, especially its well-crafted jab at our states favorite son, Willard Mitt Romney:

“When Mitt Romney implies that secular forces are the greatest threat to our nation, he forgets that the most moral president we’ve ever had – the great Abraham Lincoln – had no religion and did not consider himself a Christian. Yet…he had the great strength to oppose the most immoral threat to our national soul: slavery.”

Agreed!

Please endure a few words, in defense of my friend (I think I can call Mitt a friend) and the speech he delivered in Texas.

Recall our high school football coach bellowing at the linebackers: “hit that receiver so hard he’ll hear your footsteps every time he goes out for pass, even if you are sitting on the bench.” Well, Mitt is hearing footsteps. Here’s why.

Late in the 1994 Senatorial campaign, he had the illustrious Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy down for the count. Finally, the formidable if temporarily stunned Kennedy machine roared to life and hit Mitt hard with every “Mormon-related” skeleton it could dig out of the closet and twist out of shape.

So brazen was this attack that the astonished archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law weighed in on Romney’s side editorializing “…Senator Kennedy dishonors the legacy of his late brother…” or something like that. By the time Romney, got his wind back and responded, the election was all but decided.

Flash forward to Mike Huckabee’s eleventh hour surge in Iowa. I don’t think it can be sustained, hence I did not think Romney’s speech was necessary. Nevertheless, having been rendered inert by an ambush in 1994, Mitt was hearing footsteps in Iowa in 2007.

With the Presidency at stake, he reacted quickly and decisively. He took specific aim at the “Mormon” problem: some nasty push polling that backhandedly promoted the concept that Mormonism is a cult, a concern that strengthened the appeal of Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher.

Huckabee seemed deliberately slow to tell voters that he views Mormonism as a religion, not a cult, and when he did, he demurred saying he didn’t know much about the church. Then he coyly asked the reporter from The New York Times: “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?”

This coincided, more or less, with Romney’s statement that he includes secularists like us in his plans. He likes people who have faith in America, who believe that someday, somewhere, somehow, someway we will all be held accountable for our actions, even if only by our own consciences.

I don’t think Romney finds fault with people who have not identified a specific god to worship. He may question the motives and judgment of people who raise a big fuss about generic religious expressions. He may be wary of people who have given up the faith that America can ever again be the “city on the hill.”

Here’s a question that’s been nagging at me for some time. Perhaps it has been bugging Mitt too. Where’s the middle ground, the new American way?

As your e-mail noted, the “founders” of our nation, especially the leading lights, were deists, the “secularists” of their day. Yet their speeches and the documents were generously sprinkled with gratuitous references to God and his many aliases.

Some strident secularists of our day would eliminate all such superfluous references. I’d like to see “under God” removed from the Pledge because it was not there to begin with and was inserted under pressure from religious fanatics. However, there’s no need to remove the inscription “In God We Trust” from out nation’s currency.

In keeping with my “traditional secularist” ways, I think it essential that children in a pluralistic society like ours be taught that many good and decent people have different views on many, many issues.

For instance, it is critical that children learn how to prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence is the most reliable and arguably the most desirable way to do it (no matter your religious beliefs) for young teenagers.

Some church people insist that the schools should teach abstinence exclusively. Worse, they’d like teachers to get specific: “The Baptists teach it one way, the Catholics another and the Mormons, well they are really aren’t Christians, are they?”

Some educators would limit themselves to the mechanics and hygiene — insert A into B, condoms, pills and the rest. Romney and reasonable secularists see no harm and plenty of potential good that could result from this simple postscript: “Some of you have family and religious traditions that limit sexual intercourse to married couples only. At this stage of your lives, you should try as best you can to honor counsel from your parents and religious leaders.”

Most people in Massachusetts believe that women in consultation with their physicians have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. Poll after poll underscores the fact that we would never elect anyone to statewide office who opposed abortion on demand, no matter how liberal his views on other public policies.

“Litmus tests” are offensive, regardless of who is doing the testing and who’s being tested. Romney endured testing from the secularists of Massachusetts and now he’s getting it in spades from Iowa evangelicals who think his beliefs aren’t quite ready for the Christian mainstream.

One can only hope that if elected, Romney will never, ever turn over any key to the kingdom to such one-dimensional zealots, religious or secular, even if he must make nice with them from time to time because he’s hearing footsteps as he searches for a middle path, a New American Way.

© 2007 RB Scott All Rights Reserved
For permission to publish or reprint this column
contact rbscott@catchingmitt.com or call 508.254-9900

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