Romney's speech champions 'Symphony of faith'
Religion: He focuses on beliefs he shares with others
LM Otero, Associated Press
COLLEGE STATION, Texas GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered few details about his Mormon faith in his long-awaited speech on religion here Thursday, focusing instead on the need to stand up against efforts to eliminate God from public life and other beliefs he shares with conservatives.
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," Romney said from the stage of the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum's conference center during what many have termed a risky attempt to silence questions about his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith not familiar to many voters notably in Iowa and other key early-voting states in the 2008 race.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said Romney's speech sent the right message to evangelical voters who don't see Mormons as fellow Christians.
"It's a ringing defense of the role that religion has played and should play and should not play in American public society," Land said. "I can't imagine that there's anyone who'd be less likely to vote for Mitt Romney after hearing this speech who's likely to vote in a Republican primary."
"People of religious faith respect genuine religious conviction," Land said. "He certainly helped himself with some evangelicals."
Romney spoke only briefly of his church, mentioning the word Mormon only once in a nearly half-hour speech but said he would not be distanced from his beliefs.
"That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith, and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers I will be true to them and to my beliefs," he said, before acknowledging he holds different beliefs about Jesus Christ than other faiths, the only reference to LDS doctrine.
"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines," Romney said, noting that that type of religious test is prohibited in the U.S. Constitution. "No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith," he said.
Romney described the American values all faiths share, including seeing liberty as "a gift of God, not an indulgence of government." He said he was taught to "honor God and love thy neighbor," and recalled seeing his father, the late Michigan governor and onetime presidential candidate George Romney, march with civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
"My faith is grounded on these truths," he said. "You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect, and we surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self-same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation."
Romney referred to early LDS leader Brigham Young along with other American religious leaders who were persecuted for their beliefs before constitutional guarantees were firmly in place. He compared the faith-based culture of the United States with what he said was Europe's indifference to faith and the violence of radical Islamists.
Sonja Eddings Brown, a former KTVX Channel 4 reporter who now works as a media consultant in Los Angeles, said Romney did not need to go into more detail about his church. "As a Mormon, I feel like his example is really the strongest message," said Brown, who attended the speech.
Jay Sekulow, a lawyer with the American Center for Law and Justice founded by Pat Robertson, and a Romney adviser, said the speech was enough to change "the direction and tone of the debate" over whether a Mormon could be president.
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