Mitt Romney Panders to Theocrats

We’ve never been wild about Romney — or any of the current line-up of Republican contenders for their party’s presidential nomination, but we always thought he was someone for whom we could vote in order to defeat the other party’s candidate.

Romney, Gingrich, and Huntsman are the only non-creationists in the GOP pack. Regarding Romney specifically, back during the last presidential election cycle, we briefly noted here that he supported evolution, and not creationism, in science classes.

But look at the latest development. At the website of the Washington Post we read: Romney: ‘Religious ornamentation’ should be allowed in public square. Here are some excerpts, with links omitted and bold font added by us:

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Mitt Romney embraced the role of “religious ornamentation and celebration” in the public square here Friday after an Iowa voter complained to him that the nation’s children cannot celebrate Christmas without the risk of offending others.

This is a far bigger issue than mere creationism. Romney is talking about governmental endorsement of religion, which he ought to know is forbidden by the Constitution. Christmas parties and plays were common in school when your Curmudgeon was a boy. We were oblivious to the constitutional issues back then. But those days are apparently gone, and Christmas somehow seems to be surviving outside of public schools, just as it did before there were public schools. On with the article:

Romney’s remarks about religion marked a departure for the former Massachusetts governor, who rarely discusses his Mormon faith or religion on the campaign trail. Romney said he supports prayer at public events, like football games and graduation ceremonies, although said he did not believe teachers should pray with their students every day in public schools.

We don’t care what they do at the Superbowl, but Romney appears to be talking about public school games and graduations. What’s going on here? We were somewhat confident that Romney isn’t crazy, yet he supports the indicia of “soft” theocracy. This can only mean that he’s willing to abandon his principles — and his oath to support the Constitution — and shamelessly pander to the voters. In other words, the man has no integrity. That’s a bad characteristic in one who would be President. Let’s read on:

“I know there are some people who would like to make this nation a secular nation, who want to take God out of everything that exists in our country,” Romney said. But, he added, “I believe that we should be able to have religions ornamentation and celebration in the public square. And whether that’s a manger or a menorah or representatives of other faiths, it is important for us as a society to recognize that we look to God for many of our blessings.”

Shameless pandering indeed. We continue:

Addressing about 150 steel workers and other supporters at the Missouri Valley Steel plant here, Romney turned to American history to defend the role of religion in public life. He said George Washington felt it was only through the blessings of providence that the nation became free and won independence in the Revolutionary War.

Washington wasn’t the only Founder to say such things, while keeping his actual opinions private, but serious historians generally agree that he was likely a deist. Besides, although he presided over the Constitutional Convention, that document is utterly strict about keeping religion and government separate. Romney probably knows this. (Gingrich certainly does, but he too panders in the same way.) Here’s one more excerpt:

Romney said he understands the position of atheists, but believes there should be an embrace of God in public life.

So where does this leave us regarding the GOP primaries? Of those still in the game, we know that Bachmann, Santorum, and Perry are not only flaming creationists, but they’re likely to be outright theocrats. Gingrich and Romney probably aren’t creationists, but they have no hesitancy about pandering — and if they’ll pander, what else will they do? Who’s left? There’s Huntsman, who seems entirely rational, but according to all the polls so far he’s unlikely to be nominated. There’s also Ron Paul, but we’d rather not think about him.

The two strongest candidates at the moment are Gingrich and Romney. Both are bright enough for the job, but we have serious doubts about their character. Still, although seriously flawed, either of them would be infinitely preferable to four more years of what we currently have.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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28 responses to “Mitt Romney Panders to Theocrats

  1. Regarding government sanctioning of religious displays: this is not an endorsement of religion unless the governing agency plays favorites. If displays form all requesting religions are honored on their religious holidays, then no endorsement is implied.

    But I have a simpler way to resolve such issues: do away with all religions, equally of course.

  2. I had to come back here again, because, again, couldn’t find place to put this on. Below is my comment about your activity.
    Why do you bother creationist?
    They are religeon,not science,no? Inteligence design?, won’t you take it as just dessert?
    If you’re sure of evolution, why don’t you stick on to educate about it to many many people still out there who have slim idea.
    O.K., Maybe that’s what you are supposed to do here. In a sense, I think I understad your job,
    My thought was about the attitude of your approaching. You think they are dumb, right? Ordinary, and normal people do not treat dumb lik that.
    They deserve courtesy,no?
    One more thing, may I add?

  3. Anonymous says: “One more thing, may I add?”

    No, that’s enough.

  4. stephenpruis has a point. As long as displays are paid for with private funds, and as long as authorities refrain from favoring one viewpoint over another, it is legitimate for managers of public spaces to issue permits for temporary displays of viewpoints, not excepting devotional ones. I recognize that governing bodies also can legitimately prohibit activities and displays, as long as the prohibition is (as permission should be) viewpoint-neutral.

    I see the situation as similar to the issue of parade permits. Cities often block off their streets for St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Gay Pride, Memorial Day, and other parades celebrating ideas that not everyone is equally enthusiastic about. Minneapolis has an annual parade that includes ethnic pride groups, political interest groups, and so on–including people displaying degrees of religious devotion from Hare Krishnas to atheists. Nobody accuses the city of violating the establishment clause just because its policemen barricade the streets to provide space for these displays.

  5. Let me clarify that I disagree with Romney’s opinion that “there should be an embrace of God in public life.” Any official “embrace of God” would surely lead to the oppression of people like me. I want believers to tolerate me the same way I tolerate them.

  6. The only good thing about this is that if Romney becomes president he will have almost no effect on this subject. This is a judicial issue, not a federal one.

    (Yes, the president gets to appoint judges but there is enough precedent that Romney couldn’t make a dent in it.)

  7. Rubbish – Republicans are clueless about almost everything. They would NOT be better than what we have because they are the ones holding up progress. I cannot think of anything Republican that represents anything positive.

    Maybe one day you could explain why you love the clown party.

  8. All the years when these displays were legal, and the norm, the US never once descended into theocracy.

    At a time when religion has its lowest influence over our society, that’s when we decide to hysterically apply the label “theocracy” to Christmas decorations. Christmas is a secular as well as a religious holiday. Of all the things to get our panties in a bunch about, this is not what I’d choose.

    Know where I see lots of civic Christmas decorations? Minnesota and Wisconsin, reliably left-leaning states which have never been described as “theocratic”.

  9. Gabriel Hanna says:

    All the years when these displays were legal, and the norm, the US never once descended into theocracy.

    True, and if that were still the situation, we probably wouldn’t give it much thought at all. I don’t get offended if there’s a Christmas tree or a manger display in front of city hall. But now that the courts have dealt with the issue, and it seems that they’ve reached the proper constitutional result, it becomes a different kind of issue to insist on having such displays at government buildings. They’re really not constitutional. So why can’t the displays be confined to private property?

  10. I agree with Gabe on this one. Except for nativity scenes, Christmas ornaments are generally not very religious – in fact, the most obvious ones’ like ornamented trees and yule logs, come from pre-Christian tradition and were simply co-opted by the church, who knew a good thing when they saw it. I am an atheist, but we have our Christmas trees up, lights on the house, all of the usual xmas decor around and enjoy it completely. We go to the neighborhood parties, and bring wine and goodies to share with everyone else. Most atheists I know do the same. It wouldn’t bother me at all to see trees and similar ornaments in public places.

    On the other hand, to have Christians take advantage of the opportunity to put up the usual Christmas decorations and instead create some sort of worship service around it – that would be irritating.

  11. If there were some group called “Right-Wing Extremist Atheists for Romney,” I’d join. But I recognize that he has a real problem with the fundamentalist Christians, many of whom would rather stay home than vote for a Mormon, which could depress turnout for Senate and Congressional races. He probably has to say something like this — call it “pandering” or call it “Rea;politik” — to shore up support where he’s really weak. Even Ronaldus Magnus said even more hair-raising stuff thirty years ago about “equal time” in schools for teaching Creationism and seemingly “pandering” to the Jerry Falwells of that era — but once in office did nothing about instituting a “theocracy.” Instead he won the Cold War and ended the threat of all-out nuclear war. Carter might have been theoretically better than Ron on science issues, but would you have preferred four more years of him? Now, the moment probably calls for a competent businessman who knows how the economy works, not an ideologue.

  12. Deklane says:

    Now, the moment probably calls for a competent businessman who knows how the economy works, not an ideologue.

    I’ll vote for the guy. Still, his behavior on this is disappointing. Probably necessary, however.

  13. Ceteris Paribus

    There is some unwarranted rant inflation defending Romney in a few of the comments here.

    The editor of the WP gave the article this title:

    Romney: ‘Religious ornamentation’ should be allowed in public square

    But the actual writer’s lede paragraph is [with bold added]:

    SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Mitt Romney embraced the role of “religious ornamentation and celebration” in the public square here Friday after an Iowa voter complained to him that the nation’s children cannot celebrate Christmas without the risk of offending others.

    Romney went into full auto fire pandering at that point, throwing in prayers at (presumably public school) football games and graduations. But there is no sophistry or polite partisan accommodationism to save Romney. Simply, equating the public square of adults with the restricted intellectual space provided in public school rooms is exactly the “let the children decide” tactic used by the creationists trying to ply their religious wares.

    You can’t go down that road just one single step for political convenience. Make allowances for Romney’s religious pandering now, and you might as well join his fifth column for the long march toward theocracy.

  14. Reality: The Rethuglicans will nominate Gingrich because he is not Romney. They will not nominate a cult Mormon. No way, Jose.

    They will hold their noses, bury their sanctimonious pretensions and nominate the Newt! Of course, Newt has no chance of winning, but what else does the Party of No have to offer? They are Totally Screwed, and they know it!

    Sorry, Curmie, but Hope and Change will be the battle cry for Four More Years. I support that message!

  15. Doc – I have to disagree. I think Newt will step on his **** and Romney will eventually prevail. You are absolutely right that Newt will lose a general election, but I don’t think you will see that scenario.

    Also, the Iowa caucus does not directly result in electoral college delegates. It’s weird, but the caucus results in delegates to a state convention, which actually occurs very late in the campaign season. The delegates are not even bound by the caucus votes. Someone could win the Iowa caucus and later run into problems and the Iowa delegates could rethink their votes. Wikipedia has an interesting article on the process. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_caucuses

    My preference would be Huntsman, but I anticipate that Romney will win the nomination. Unless someone else enters the race, I think at this point that Obama will easily win. The Republicans candidates will tear each other up before the national convention, the tea party reps in the house will continue to act like stubborn children, and to the president’s advantage we are out of Iraq and some positive benefits of the the healthcare bill are in place (like the age 26 coverage for children) which most voters will not want to see repealed. The only Republican I can think of that might win the election tomorrow would be Speaker Boehner. He has the gravitas and he has cred with old-school republicans and independents. Of course, he will not run, but it would be a great contest.

  16. (like the age 26 coverage for children)

    Wow, you wrote that without irony.

  17. Chris P: Rubbish – Republicans are clueless about almost everything.

    @Chris: There are many examples of people who are both clueless and Republican, but not a great deal more (or less) than there are clueless and liberal. What we do have, is a particularly bad selection of candidates calling themselves Republicans.

  18. “Maybe one day you could explain why you love the clown party.”

    Must be a drive-by commenter; the good Sensy Crum has explained his preference for the GOP many times.

    My own view is that one should vote for the Stupid Party (R) rather than the Evil Party (D), but lately it seems like both parties are determined to be both stupid and evil simultaneously.

  19. Ceteris Paribus

    @meh:
    “[O]ne should vote for the Stupid Party (R) rather than the Evil Party (D), but lately it seems like both parties are determined to be both stupid and evil simultaneously.

    That defines the problem – there is no longer any clear connection between a long term party philosophy and the short term political candidate of that party. Any given candidate can be stupid, evil, or both, regardless of party label.

    Back when party regulars alone chose their candidate, the party itself was held accountable in the next election if their winner turned out to be a plug, or their platform too doctrinaire for governance.

    The parties themselves will have to take the lead and stop using primaries and caucus circuses to pick candidates based on temporary rock star status. For now we will will just have to accept evil and/or stupid as normal, unless there is a move to a parliamentary form of government.

  20. I wish the press would attack such pandering by highlighting the negavites of it to the majority. Example: “So, Mr. Romney, you support public high schools leading students in islamic prayers to Allah before high school football games? Even if some students find that offensive?”

    Faced with such a question, I can’t imagine Mitt claiming the school has a right to do that. That would be more negative than his pro-prayer pandering would be positive, so, in response, I think he would take a more secular view (which, sadly, is likely no more sincere than his pro-prayer one).

    Gabriel Hannah: All the years when these displays were legal, and the norm, the US never once descended into theocracy.
    Well, it hasn’t descended into anarchy due to welfare programs or state-run health care programs, either, but you still oppose those because you think they are bad for the country, right? SC (and I) think having the government endorse one religious belief over others (or none) is bad for the country. If complete and utter destruction does not result, its still bad.

  21. eric: “I wish the press would attack such pandering by highlighting the negavites of it to the majority. Example: “So, Mr. Romney, you support public high schools leading students in islamic prayers to Allah before high school football games? Even if some students find that offensive?””

    A good point. Most calling for school prayer fail to think it through. Who shall write the prayer? The teacher? The principal? The school district superintendent? A student? Whose religion shall be favored? And more to the point — who’s going to pony up the money to defend the school district in court against the inevitable constitutional challenge?

    Those who wish to pray may do so — silently. In fact, they are mandated by the Bible to do just that ( Matthew 6, verse 6 or 7 — or somewhere around there. I don’t have the time just now to look it up.). The point made is that God will hear your prayer even if no one else can, so don’t make a public spectacle of your praying. Jesus — I wish these Bible-thumpers would read the Bible!

  22. Like eric, I think their needs to be more scrutiny of these recommendations. Those recommending prayer in schools need to be relabeled as recommending “government sponsored prayer in schools.” As some wag said, “those who believe that there is no prayer in school have never taken an algebra test.” Students may pray 100 times a day in school, as there is no prohibition of it, we just don’t want the government leading the prayers. And with reference to the Biblical admonition to pray in private: as I have said before, these people don’t know their religion well enough either.

  23. I don’t think it’s us “get[ting] our panties in a bunch about” it- I think it’s more our reaction to them getting their knickers in a twist about a non-existent problem, as in the Iowa voter who complained about children not being able to openly celebrate Christmas, and Rick Perry’s dog-whistle to folks like him. It seems to me that the whole point of a secular government is to recognize the basic right of anyone to believe any ridiculous thing they want, as long as they don’t confuse that right with one to deny others the right to believe their own ridiculous things. And when Bachmann and Perry (and now, perhaps, Romney) pander to a Christian base with statements like “there should be an embrace of God in public life,” they are NOT thinking or talking in terms of any but their own Christian god, for whom they are demanding special, and not simply equal, recognition. They don’t want equal rights for Christians, they are pushing for recognition of Christianity as THE superior and necessary principle, to be followed by America and Americans. No, Christmas lights are not harbingers of an impending theocratic doom- I’m agnostic, and I enjoy Christmas and its spirit, decorations and all, as much as any Christian. But it’s the Christians who are over-emphasizing their importance as a symbol in their fictional “war on Christmas and Christians.”

  24. Wow, I agree with aturingtest (imagine finding kindred spirits on a web site!)! Even if the panderers get their wish, they would have a hard time defining “God” and even if they managed to get it defined in a narrow fundamentalist protestant Christian way, well, the “God” of Islam is the same as the “God” of the Old Testament, so these folks would end up injecting Islam into our schools, which as we all know is just the toehold they need to get Sharia Law in there, and Ohmigod!!!

  25. “The two strongest candidates at the moment are Gingrich and Romney. Both are bright enough for the job, but we have serious doubts about their character. Still, although seriously flawed, either of them would be infinitely preferable to for more years of what we currently have.”

    There are some liberal-infested blogs where you would not be very popular.

    Romney has noticed he has some real competition now, so he figured out he has to suck up to theocratic Christians who want to make America like Iran. So to get elected he’s willing to throw out the Establishment Clause. At least he isn’t a Rick Perry who would force biology teachers to teach magical creationism.

  26. Human Ape says: “There are some liberal-infested blogs where you would not be very popular.”

    I’m not all that popular here either, but I persevere nevertheless.

  27. I’m not all that popular here either, but I persevere nevertheless.

    It's your irresistible wit, wisdom, and charm that keeps us coming back for more….

    [be sure to make my check payable to "CASH"….]

  28. Curmy says, “I’m not all that popular here either, but I persevere nevertheless.”

    Aw, y’are too!