Sorry, haters: Freedom of religion was unifying, not divisive

One of the most oft-cited concerns about Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee has been his Mormon faith, and certain liberals have been not-so-subtle about hoping that the matter will drive a wedge through the conservative voting bloc come November. As Edward Klein writes:

According to my sources inside the campaign, Axelrod & Co. discussed what might be called the nuclear option: unleashing an attack on Romney’s Mormon faith via the mainstream media.

As Axelrod knew, many pundits credit evangelical Christians, who are heavily Republican and comprise some 14percent of voters, with putting George W. Bush over the top in the election of 2004.Axelrod was also aware that Mormonism is a fraught subject among evangelical Christians, a substantial portion of whom believe that Mormonism is a cult that is separate and apart from Christianity.

Axelrod calculated that if he could turn 5 to 10 percent of the evangelicals against Romney because of his Mormonism, he could deny Romney victory at the polls in 2012.

Of course, Axelrod and his team had already succeeded in pandering to special interest groups, such as Hispanics, gays, and women. They wondered whether they could have equal success playing on the fears of Mormonism among evangelical Christians and convince them to stay at home on Election Day rather than vote for Mitt Romney.

There was much speculating as to whether the Republican National Convention would shy away from using the “M” word and just generally avoid talking too much about religion, but I didn’t think that was the case at all. Quite the opposite, actually — I thought several of the headliners handled the issue of religious differences rather deftly, and touted freedom of religion as something that unifies Americans rather than breaking us apart.

Freedom of religion was the basis for America’s founding, after all: A new world based on the liberty to worship however you choose, rather than the necessity of worshiping together. It’s one of the foremost but many reasons America is so exceptional. We’re not a theocracy, and we don’t persecute people for their religious beliefs (or lack thereof). I realize there are plenty of Americans who think of Mormonism is downright kooky, but frankly, I don’t care what a group of people believes if they’re churning out productive, neighborly, and upstanding citizens who care about something bigger than themselves — hey, kinda’ like Mitt Romney. We can respect each other without having to have the same faiths, and that is truly awesome.

Here were some of the faith-based highlights of the convention proceedings, if you’d care to read and discuss:

Ann Romney:

When Mitt and I met and fell in love, we were determined not to let anything stand in a way of our future.  I was Episcopalian, he was a Mormon.  We were very young, both still in college.  There were many reasons to delay marriage.  And you know what, we just didn’t care. We got married and moved into a basement apartment. …

I know this good and decent man for what he is.  He’s warm, and loving, and patient.  He has tried to live his life with a set of values centered on family, faith, and love of one fellow man.  From the time we were first married, I have seen him spend countless hours helping others.  I’ve seen him drop everything to help a friend in trouble, and been there when late-night calls of panic come from a member of our church whose child has been taken to the hospital.

Mike Huckabee:

I want to clear the air about something that has been said. People wonder whether guys like me, an evangelical, would only support a fellow evangelical?  Well my friends I want to tell you something, of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama.  And he supports changing the definition of marriage.  Believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the wound, even beyond the womb.  And he tells people of faith that they have to bow their knees to the God of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls, health care.  Friends I know we can do better.

Let me say it as clearly as possible, that the attack on my Catholic brothers and sisters is an attack on me.

The Democrats have brought back that old dance, the limbo. To see how low they can go in attempting to limit our ability to practice our faith.  But this isn’t a battle about contraceptives and Catholics, but about conscience and the Creator.  Let me say to you tonight, I care far less as to where Mitt Romney takes his family to church, than I do about where he takes this country.

Paul Ryan:

The man who will accept your nomination is prayerful and faithful and honorable.  Not only a defender of marriage, he offers an example of marriage at its best.  Not only a fine businessman, he is a fine man, worthy of leading this optimistic and good-hearted country.  Our faiths come together in the same moral creed.  We believe that in every life, there is goodness, for every person there is hope.  Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the lord of life.

Marco Rubio:

And we’re special — we’re special because we are united — we’re united not as a common race or ethnicity, we are bound together by common values.  The family is the most important institution in society.

And that almighty God is the source of all we have.

We are special.  We are special because we have never made the mistake of believing we are so smart that we can rely solely on our leaders or on our government.  Our national motto, “in God we trust”, reminding us that faith in our creator is the most important American value of them all.

And we are special — we’re special because we’ve always understood the scriptural admonition, that for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.

Well, my fellow Americans, we are a uniquely blessed people, and we have honored those blessings with the enduring example of an exceptional America.

Mitt Romney:

Like a lot of families in a new place with no family, we found kinship with a wide circle of friends through our church. When we were new to the community, it was welcoming, and as the years went by, it was a joy to help others who had just moved into town or just joined our church.

We had remarkably vibrant endeavors congregations from all walks of life, and many who were new to America.  We prayed together, our kids played together, and we always stood ready to help each other out in different ways.  That’s how it is in America.  We look to our communities, our faiths, our families, for our joy and support, in good times and bad.  It’s both how we live our lives and why we live our lives.  The strength and power and goodness of America has always been based on the strength and power and goodness of our communities, our families, and our faiths.