COLLEGE STATION, Tx. – According to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, if you want to live in America, you'd better be religious.
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," he said in a speech yesterday at the George H.W. Bush Library, with the elder Bush doing both the intro and the outro of the performance. "Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
Of course, anyone reading the U.S. Constitution, the "Supreme Law of the land," or even the Declaration of Independence, would probably be a little puzzled by Romney's statement. The word "freedom" appears just once in the Constitution: In the First Amendment, where it refers to the "freedom of speech, or of the press" which Congress "shall make no law ... abridging." The word doesn't appear at all in the Declaration.
Being a bit more "charitable," we also searched those documents for "liberty," which appears just three times in the Constitution: Once in the preamble, as one of the reasons the Constitution was established – "[to] secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity" – and twice in the amendments, as one of the things that "no person [shall] be deprived of ... without due process of law." It's in the Declaration once, as one of the "unalienable Rights" – not, as Romney claims, "a gift of God" – and in no case do those documents say that either freedom or liberty can be taken away if the (would-be) practitioner isn't religious enough.
Not yet, anyway.
Y'see, it's that ominous "Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone." Most people in the U.S. cherish their freedom, and many are even willing to fight to preserve it, but anyone of moderate intelligence can see that freedom and religion don't have a lot to do with each other. If anything, religion has been responsible throughout history for some of humankind's biggest deprivations of freedom. Think the Crusades. Think the "Dark Ages." Think the Spanish Inquisition (1481-1834!). Hell, it was the persecutions of one religious sect, the Puritans, by the Church of England that drove one of the American colonies to be established!
And let's not forget the fact that there is no reason to suppress the availability, to consenting adults, of sexually explicit material made by consenting adults except for religious bias against the material that has been enacted into law.
What's clear, despite caveats within his speech to the contrary, is that Romney, if elected, would attempt to turn the United States into a theocracy, a religious state where certain religions could worship freely and would have favored status with the government, and other religions as well as the non-religious would become second-class citizens, denied certain rights because of their different or non-belief.
"There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us," Romney declared. "If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams’ words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'"
That, of course, is a lie: Not only is the Constitution silent as to any purported religious basis, not only does it fail to mention any requirement for religious affiliation of the citizenry, but it expressly forbids any religious test for government office, meaning that even atheists are technically electable. And while the First Amendment forbids Congress from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson (primary author of the non-religious Declaration of Independence) and James Madison made it clear in their Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779) that "no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities" – a prohibition that survives today as part of the Constitution of Virginia.
And that's irrespective of Jefferson's better-known 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, one phrase of which is well-remembered in history:
Wrote Jefferson, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state." [Emphasis added]
One might think Romney supported that principle, since he says, "We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong."
First of all, no one with any credibility is "seek[ing] to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God." The First Amendment forbids Congress or any other government official from "establishing religion" – that is, putting forth any religious belief system as if it had government support. This includes government-mandated prayer in public schools, school-sponsored prayer before official sports activities, displays of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and many other prohibitions – but no one stops anyone, speaking in their personal capacity, from extolling the virtues of their belief, as sacrilegious or boring as that may be to others.
As for religion being "seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life," perhaps he's forgotten the admonition of Matthew 6:5-6: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." [Emphasis added]
And although it's long been clear that the religious seem incapable of understanding that some people have philosophies which they follow which don't depend on unprovable beliefs, do we really have to remind anyone that "secularism" isn't a "religion"?
Quoth Romney: "We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust."
As the punchline to the old joke goes, "What you mean-um 'we,' kemo sabe?"
Saith Romney: "[W]e can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty."
Yeah; right! Tell that, for instance, to Tammy Kitzmiller and 10 other parents of students in the Dover, Pa. school district who had to take the local school board to court after it insisted that (religiously-based) "intelligent design" had to be given the same status in science class as the (scientific) theory of evolution!
Promised Romney: "And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me."
And the rest of us can go fuck ourselves, right?
This man will make a Very Bad President!