Mitt Romney has received an award for his "Courage in Defense of Religious Liberty" during his presidential bid from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm based in Washington, D.C., that defends religious rights and practices.
Romney and his wife, Ann, received the Becket Fund's Canterbury Medal on Thursday. Past recipients include Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel and Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Before dropping out of the race for the White House in February, Romney repeatedly dealt with questions surrounding his beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In December, Romney attempted to confront critics of his faith by delivering a speech on the role of religion in American. He called the speech, which was also delivered in Texas, "the most memorable part of my campaign" in an interview with National Review Online.
At Thursday's award ceremony, Romney repeated a key line from his speech, that "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.... Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."
He also said he should have talked about atheists in his December speech, saying he missed "an opportunity to clearly assert that non-believers have just as great a stake as believers in defending religious liberty."
Romney went on to say that non-believers may be the first to be condemned if a society prohibits certain beliefs. "A coercive monopoly of belief threatens everyone," he said, adding, "we are all in this together."
In conferring the award, Ann Corkery, a former U.S. diplomat, said, "At every turn, (the Romneys) had to explain their faith to defend the good and venerable teachings of the Mormon Church."She said the award was given "to those who refuse to compromise their principles and faith, and do so 'resolutely.' If there were additional honors for graciousness in defense of their faith, for modesty and sheer decency, we would be conferring those medals as well on Mitt and Ann Romney."
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