Is Mitt Romney ever going to address his Mormon roots? There are pros and cons to Romney not addressing his religious affiliations before the country, but it is not getting any easier to fight off the negative connotations a curious media hope to conjure up with irrelevant religious questions.
Romney has yet to give a major speech on his faith and its relationship to his public political life, but I'm sure he will speak about it soon enough. And I hope he will do it in such a way that it empowers religious leaders to embrace their faith in their public lives.
Media folk conventionally refer to the "JFK speech" they think Romney has to give. But that's not the right speech. Kennedy — our first Catholic president — divorced his public political life from his private religious life, an awful approach. Romney is likely to do what he's always done when asked questions about his religion. He talks about common values despite facing some challenges from the press.
Chris Matthews, MSNBC host and moderator of the debate at the Reagan library, asked Romney if Catholic bishops should deny Communion to pro-choice politicians. Well, that's none of his business, Chris — he's a Mormon and he's running for president of the United States, not pope.
Romney gave an excellent answer. He said, pitch-perfectly: "I don't say anything to Roman Catholic bishops. They can do whatever the heck they want." He continued, when bizarrely pressed by an oddly earnest Matthews, "I can't imagine a government telling a church who can have communion in their church. I can't — we have a separation of church and state; it's served us well in this country."
Romney then added: "This is a nation, after all, that wants a leader that's a person of faith, but we don't choose our leader based on which church they go to. This is a nation that also comes together. We unite over faith and over the right of people to worship as they choose."
He then skillfully segued into the heart of why are tolerance of diversity is so important: "The people we're fighting, they're the ones who divide over faith and decide matters of this nature in the public forum. This is a place where we celebrate different religions and different faiths."
These concerns show a worrying and unwarranted lack of confidence in American's tolerance of different religions. Everywhere Romney goes the question is: "Hey, but you're Mormon." And he says (I paraphrase), Yes, yes, I am. I am a normal American who loves God, with one wife, children and grandchildren. I work hard and want to serve my country in a secular manner to the best of my ability. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I have a whole lot in common with a whole lot of my fellow Americans who aren't.
That's simple enough. What is it that these journalists are so worried about?
Kathryn Lopez is the editor of National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.