Romney at Liberty University
May 12, 2012
“The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate. It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with. Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government.”
These are a few of words that Mitt Romney spoke at Liberty University in his highly anticipated commencement address there today, May 12, 2012. Interesting that Romney finds it “odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem” because some of our leading statesmen did not find this odd at all. Thomas Jefferson did not find this odd at all, convinced as he was that even the gospels needed editing in order to be rendered “safe.” How did Jefferson edit them? Well, he removed all references to Jesus as the son of god, thinking that this would help avoid those theological disputes that had caused so much bloodshed in Europe during the 100 Years War(s). Also, he collapsed the four gospels into one, removed all miracles, and at the end had Jesus die – without the benefit of a resurrection! This is not minor stuff, to say the least. Jefferson even implied that some religions taught that some human beings were intended to rule other human beings without their consent, being entrusted apparently with such a position by some connection with an almighty.
Also, James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution and a resident living fairly close to where Liberty University now sits, argued that religion, so far from offsetting the inherent tendency toward majority tyranny that infects all republics, was as likely to promote as to discourage such a tyranny. And Madison, when president, went out of his way not to proclaim religious holidays or to support religion in any especially open or official ways.
And it is fair to say that Romney’s claim that “Perhaps religious conscience upsets the designs of those who feel that the highest wisdom and authority comes from government” would not apply to either Jefferson or Madison, both of whom were proponents of a government far smaller and less authoritative than even Romney supports! Jefferson undertook to radically remake the government the Federalists tried to establish and Madison continued his, Jefferson’s, agenda.
Why is this important? First, because our politicians owe us honesty. When they engage in myth-making as Romney is doing here to support a particular agenda, they do us a disservice. Second, because by speaking like this, Romney obscures an important political issue, viz., the status of religion, at least of organized and revealed religion. He is pandering but, what is worse, he doesn’t even know he is pandering. He thinks his history is accurate and so he goes merrily on his way down a primrose path unaware of any of the pitfalls that mark that path. We really should expect more from our “leaders.”